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August 31, 2009

Did Mortazavi Get Promoted or Sidelined?

The L.A. Times airs the debate of what has become of the former prosecutor in Iran’s show trials:

“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.

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