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IRAN: Tehran prosecutor 'promoted' into obscurity?

August 31, 2009 |  5:01 am

Iran-mortazaviThe naming of the notorious Tehran prosecutor to a new post as deputy prosecutor-general gives him a fancy title and protection from future legal action, but 
strips him of his power to pursue his hardline political agenda, said two Iranian lawyers.

Saeed Mortazavi, the jurist behind Tehran's so-called show trials, was removed from his post as the city's main prosecutor and reassigned as a deputy to the nation's top prosecutor. 

Some analysts and legal experts have called Mortazavi's new post "a promotion" that signals Iran's intent to continue its current legal course under new judicairy chief Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani.

"When he was Tehran public prosecutor he could only issue arrest warrants for people in Tehran," said Khalil Bahramian, a human rights lawyer in the capital. "Now he can do the same nationwide."

Not so fast, say Saleh Nikbakht and Mohammad-Hossein Aghassi, two Iranian trial lawyers who for years have been fighting for human rights in Iran's legal trenches.

"From a bureaucratic and formal angle it seems like a promotion," said Aghassi, who defended Radio Farda journalist Parnaz Azima when she was charged with committing crimes against national security in 2007.

"But in terms of the power to issue arrest warrants or issue verdict or sue anyone, it is a demotion because he has been stripped of all powers he had enjoyed," he said.

Mortazavi gained infamy as head of a press court that shuttered dozens of newspapers. As public prosecutor in Tehran he went after dissidents and journalists with zeal. He earned international infamy in his alleged role behind the murder of photojournalist Zahra Kazemi, a dual Iranian Canadian national, and its subsequent coverrup.

His new post, Aghassi said, gives him protection from future prosecution for his actions as Tehran prosecutor. 

Nikbakht, one of the two lawyers who defended Iranian American journalist Roxana Saberi, called the "promotion" the "worst treatment he could receive" because he loses the power to order an arrest or a halt to political activities.

"In his new position he is one of six deputies for prosecutor-general Gholamhossein Mohseni-Ejei," said Nikbakht. "Mortazavi, with his notorious background, will be seemingly equal to other fellow deputies...For sure his authority and power have been diminished almost to zero, nothing ... because he cannot make any judiciary decision." 

Mortazavi will be under the thumb of Mohseni-Ejei, a prominent conservative and former intelligence minister who emerged as an enemy of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's clique when he opposed the ongoing Tehran trials against dissidents and declined to link the recent unrest in Iran to a foreign plot.

While Mortazavi might be glum if his new job won't up his powers, he'll be cheered on payday. 

His salary will go up, Nikbakht said. 

-- Ramin Mostaghim in Tehran and Borzou Daragahi in Beirut

Photo: Saeed Mortazavi. Credit: EPA

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