A former Iranian prosecutor at the centre of a growing confrontation between two of Iran’s most powerful figures has been arrested, according to the Tehran prosecutor’s website.
Saeed Mortazavi, considered a close aide of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was taken to Tehran’s Evin prison, the semi-official Fars agency reported on Tuesday.
“[Mortazavi] is at the crux of a political fiasco that has brought all the regime’s dark secrets to the surface“
– Yasmin Alem, Analyst
Fars reported that Mortazavi was arrested on Monday.
No reason was given for the arrest in the statement released on Tuesday, but the timing suggested it might be linked to Mortazavi’s role as a former judicial official, in a dispute between Ahmadinejad and Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani.
Mortazavi was dismissed from his judicial post after the controversial 2009 presidential elections, which the opposition claimed was rigged in Ahmadinejad’s favour.
Fars reported that Mortazavi’s arrest was “possibly” in connection with allegations of torture and the death of three protesters.
Al Jazeera’s Soraya Lennie, reporting from Tehran, said the “timing of his arrest can be called into question”.
‘Butcher of the press’
The spokesperson for Iran’s judiciary, Gholamhossein Mohseni-Ejei, said in January that Iran’s court would address the cases in March.
In a speech meant to defend one of his ministers against impeachment, Ahmadinejad played a tape he said showed a meeting between Ali Larijani’s brother Fazel and Mortazavi in which Fazel Larijani attempted to use his family’s prominent political status for financial gain.
Both Fazel and Ali Larijani denied the accusation of corruption, and Fazel Larijani said he would file a legal complaint against Ahmadinejad and Mortazavi.
|The opposition claimed the controversial 2009 presidential elections were rigged in Ahmadinejad’s favour [EPA]
The head of Iran’s judiciary is Sadeq Larijani – Fazel and Ali’s brother.
Labour Minister Abdolreza Sheikholeslami, who was dismissed by parliament on Sunday, appointed Mortazavi last year to head the social security office.
Dubbed by some as “the butcher of the press,” Mortazavi had a central role in shutting down reformist newspapers and arresting dozens of journalists.
Human Rights Watch has previously described Mortazavi as a “serial human rights abuser” whose “unsavoury history goes back many years”.
“Over the last decade, his [Mortazavi’s] name has been closely linked to most, if not all, of Iran’s human rights related imbroglios,” said Yasmin Alem, a US-based expert on Iran’s electoral system.
“Now, he is at the crux of a political fiasco that has brought all the regime’s dark secrets to the surface.”