Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Shirin Ebadi: "Pursuing complaints against Saeed Mortazavi is easier now"

In an interview with Rooz, Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi said that the ostensible promotion of notorious Tehran Prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi to the post of deputy prosecutor-general made it easier to pursue complaints against him. "This cannot be considered a promotion. Mortazavi's responsibilities and power are much more limited in his new position," She told Rooz.

The strange case of Mortazavi's sacking, then return to favor in less than 24 hours has been widely analyzed. New judiciary chief Sadegh Larijani removed Mortazavi from his post on August 29 without mentioning his transfer to any other function. Many observers believed this signaled Larijani's desire to break from the past and curtail the actions of one of the most hard-line elements of the judiciary.

Mortazavi had been the bane of Iran's journalists during his stint at the Press Court, closing dozens of publications and jailing reporters. Later as Tehran prosecutor, he had zealously prosecuted dissidents and become directly implicated in the prison death of Canadian-Iranian photographer Zahra Kazemi in 2003. According to Alireza Nourizadeh, director of the Center for Arab and Iranian Studies in London, "When the late Zahra Kazemi was tortured, we obtained evidence that Jafar Nemati, deputy to Tehran Prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi, and a couple of interrogators, in the presence of Prosecutor Mortazavi himself, raped Kazemi." His last accomplishment was the organization of the recent show trials.

But less than a day after he was fired, Mortazavi was named deputy under the new prosecutor-general, Gholam-Hossein Mohseni Ejei, who had also engaged in a game of professional musical chairs, having quit or been removed as Intelligence Minister just ten days before the end of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's first term.

"When Mr. Mortazavi was Tehran's prosecutor, he unfortunately committed many transgressions," Ebadi told Rooz. "Some of the people whose rights had been trampled had lodged complaints against him at the Judicial Disciplinary Court."

Ebadi said that one of Mortazavi's latest transgressions has to do with the events that took place after the election. "Two days before the election, he issued a general arrest warrant against all individuals who would take part in street unrest. How did he know that something was going to happen and that anyone would take to the streets?" Ebadi said in her interview with Rooz. "Issuing a general arrest warrant of this nature does not exist in the law."

Ebadi also faulted Mortazavi for the recent cases of prison abuse. "According to the law, the prosecutor is responsible for all the events that have taken place in Kahrizak, other illegal detention centers, and prisons. Things have gone so far that even a member of the Majlis called for his prosecution."

Ebadi said that Mortazavi would not enjoy the same responsibilities or power in his new job. "Mr. Mortazavi will be one of six deputy prosecutor-generals. He does not have absolute power and his actions will be overseen. His decisions will not directly affect the freedom or rights of individuals."

Mortazavi will not be able to impose his views on the new Tehran prosecutor, Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi, according to Ebadi. "The law does not allow a deputy prosecutor-general to influence the work of provincial prosecutors, including the Tehran prosecutor," she said.

"Mr. Mortazavi's position, in my opinion, has been weakened," she said, "and it will be easier to pursue disciplinary complaints against him."

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