Isn’t Saeed Mortazavi the same person who is responsible for the atrocities at Kahrizak? Then why, instead of being punished, is he being given new governmental responsibilities, one after the other?
Iranians know Saeed Mortazavi well; a short man with big eyes, adorned with glasses, a bit overweight, and who just recently celebrated his 54th birthday. What has surprised Iranians though is that it seems that he has collected his things from his office at the Task Force against the Smuggling of Goods and Currency and is moving them to his new office at the Social Welfare Organization. And the question that members of the public are asking themselves is why Saeed Mortazavi, a man implicated in the Kahrizak Prison scandal, is taking on new governmental responsibilities by presidential order rather than being made to take responsibility for his past actions.
Act One: Mortazavi and the Kahrizak Atrocities
During Ayatollah Hashemi Shahroodi's tenure as the Head of the Judiciary and at a time when the reformists were in power, Saeed Mortazavi held the position of Tehran's Prosecutor General. However, the atrocities of Kahrizak can be considered as the most important issue in accusations made against Mortazavi. When these crimes were exposed, all fingers pointed to Mortazavi, and the Supreme Leader ordered officials to severely deal with all and any individuals involved in this matter. As such, Saeed Mortazavi made news headlines more than ever before.
The Kahrizak Penitentiary is a prison where, to quote the Supreme Leader, “crimes” were committed. Mortazavi, who was directly responsible for ordering the transfer to Kahrizak of those detained after the events following the 2009 elections, stated in an interview full of contradictions, “I was told in a telephone conversation to transfer the detainees of the 2009 events to Evin Prison, without being given a specific reason, and I followed the order in the shortest time possible.”
“This means that I immediately relayed this order to Mr. Haddad, the deputy prosecutor general for security, and I then called Tehran’s security police in the presence of my Judiciary colleagues to arrange the immediate and quick transfer of the detainees from Kahrizak, and I stressed that they must inform us if they need any help with transportation so that this transfer could be done early the next morning.”
In another interview, Mortazavi said, “I had told my assistant that students should not be taken to this prison. This prison had been constructed about 10 years before, when the Khaak Sefid neighborhood was being cleansed, and permits had been granted for it several times before the reopening of the Prosecutor General’s office.” In response to the question of why some students were still among the Kahrizak detainees, he said, “The reason was that, upon entry to Kahrizak, these individuals had not identified themselves as students, so we had no idea they were.” He openly admits to having detailed information about the detainees and their conditions. But a few moments later, when a journalist asks him about his role in Kahrizak, Mortazavi denies everything and replies, “Kahrizak is officially under the jurisdiction of the city of Shahre Rey, and I am the Prosecutor General of Tehran.” Alireza Zakani, a member of Parliament who had previously called for the investigation of Mortazavi’s violations, answered Mortazavi’s claims regarding Kahrizak by saying, “On my request, a committee was assembled by Ayatollah Shahroodi, the head of the Judiciary at the time, comprising of Mr. Raeesi, Mr. Khalafi, Mr. Jamshidi, Mr. Nekounam, and Mr. Rahimi, who are all high-ranking judges. I am ready to present the documents, prepared long ago, and which I have refrained from publishing due to the country’s circumstances, to the mentioned delegations and break my silence; stating the results to officials, particularly Ayatollah Amoli Larijani.”
In response to claims made by Saeed Mortazavi, saying that, “Zakani has personal issues with me” and denying published information, Zakani said, “I don’t see any reason to answer his letter and soon the results of the investigating delegation will be published, so that the truth will be revealed.” Kahrizak Prison, based on the order of the Supreme Leader, was to be shut down on the 6th of Mordad 1388 (July 28th, 2009). The reason was that the prison did not meet “standards “, and did not have the necessary conditions to “preserve the rights of the imprisoned”.
Meanwhile, a news website wrote, “After the Supreme Leader was informed of such acts, officials were ordered to transfer the prisoners to another location and shut down Kahrizak Prison; but this order, due to the inattentiveness of the mentioned judge, remains inactive until Monday, and this person, in order to justify his action, states that there is no other place to imprison people. “
The Supreme Leader, this time in an order to the Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, emphasizes that, even if there is no other place to transfer the prisoners, they have to temporarily be released despite whatever crime they might have committed (this order covered all prisoners, whether political or vagrants). But, surprisingly, this order was again neglected and this former judiciary official, after the worsening physical health of several prisoners, finally decided to transfer them to Evin Prison on Tuesday. Unfortunately, three prisoners, named Amir Javadi Far, Mohammad Kamrani, and Mohsen Rooh-ol-Amini, pass away due to the worsening of their physical conditions. Based on this report, following the Leader’s orders, the first judiciary institution to take action was the Judiciary Department of the Armed Forces, which held trials for officers responsible in the Kahrizak crimes.
After eight trial sessions, which began in Esfand of 1388 (Februray 2010), the Judiciary Department of the Armed Forces announced the verdicts for the 12 officers accused in the Kahrizak trial. Based on these verdicts, two of them were sentenced to execution, 9 of them were sentenced to punishments such as imprisonment, lashings, payment of blood money, and temporary discharge from service, and one of the accused was declared innocent. The report of the Judiciary Department of the Armed Forces declared the sentences of these twelve people, while all of the eight trial sessions were closed to the public and the identities of the accused were not published. Prior to that, Majlis had entered the scene to shed some light on the dark angles of the Kahrizak crimes, and after several months of delicate investigation, the special delegation to investigate the Kahrizak incident finalized its report and ratified it with consensus. Following many lobbies, the report of this committee was read in Majlis. The report of the Majlis investigating committee had considered Saeed Mortazavi, Tehran’s former Prosecutor General who was in charge of Kahrizak prison by the order of the then Head of Judiciary, responsible for this incident. Although great efforts were made to prevent the reading of the report in Majlis’ open session, it was read by Kazem Jalali.
Later, while expressing their gratitude to the Supreme Leader and for measures taken by the Judiciary to investigate the case of Kahrizak crimes, 216 Majlis representatives demanded the finalization of the disastrous “Tehran University Dormitory” case in a joint statement. This statement, which was read by Omidvar Rezaei, member of the presiding committee of the Majlis, said: “The Kahrizak crime was a bitter incident that broke the heart of the Leader and the hearts of all our people. Investigation of the cases of the accused in military court and the Disciplinary Court of Judges, and recent verdicts for the former Prosecutor General and two accused judges, have blown a healing breeze all over the country. The decisive and neutral approach of the Department of Justice has revived hopes in people’s hearts. We, as representatives of the people in the Islamic Council Majlis, express our gratitude for the support of the Supreme Leader, which led to a just investigation of this case, and for the determination of Ayatollah Amoli Larijani and the bravery of the judges of this case. We hope that the “Tehran University Dormitory “case, the investigation of which was stressed by our justice-seeking Supreme Leader, will soon reach a verdict as well.”
A few days later, the prosecutor of the Disciplinary Court of Judges reported the trials of three suspended judges. Regarding the latest state of the case of Tehran’s former Prosecutor General and two other judges responsible for the Kahrizak atrocities, Hojjat-ul-Islam Ahmad Shafei said, “After filing the cases of these three culprits, the verdict reached was their suspension from all public services. Then, their cases were sent to the Special Court for Government Staff for further investigation.”
Act Two: Welcome to the Task Force against the Smuggling of Goods and Currency (with a forced farewell to the Prosecutor General’s Office)
It was after the reading of this report that the Head of the Judiciary suspended the activities of the then Prosecutor General of Tehran, on whose orders the arrested persons were taken to Kahrizak, and a case was filed against him as one of the main culprits. But Mahmood Ahmadinejad, immediately and surprisingly, issued the order for the presidency of the Task Force against the Smuggling of Goods and Currency for this former judiciary official, creating disappointment for the families who had lost their loved ones in Kahrizak.
It was for this reason that Abdul-Hussein Rooh-ul-Amini, the father of the deceased Mohen Rooh-ul-Amini, protested against the presence of Saeed Mortazavi in the government. In an interview, he said: “We expected the government, as a sign of respect for the blood of those killed in Kahrizak, not to assign a new post for Mortazavi, and so assigning a new important post to him is regarded as disrespectful to those who were killed in these crimes.”
He further added: “We did not expect that, prior to investigation of his crimes in court and considering his judiciary suspension, he would be given a new post in the executive body; but despite his judiciary suspension, the disagreement of the Department of Justice and of public opinion, he was given a high-ranking post in the government.”
Apart from the protests of Rooh-ul-Amini against the head of the government regarding the appointment of a culprit to the Task Force against the Smuggling of Goods and Currency, the question that must be asked of the President is, “When will the actions of Saeed Mortazavi in this governmental position be published in the media?” However, the interesting point is that Mortazavi never welcomed questions from journalists regarding his work at this center and never offered any reports on his work, which adds to the dark and secretive aspects of his managerial history.
Act Three: Appointment as the Head of the Social Welfare Organization amid the chaos of Parliamentary Elections
In any case, two years after the horrific events of Kahrizak prison and the killing of three young devout men, and despite the insistence of the Supreme Leader on severely dealing with those responsible for these crimes, nothing was done, and the president even introduced Saeed Mortazavi as the new head of the Social Welfare Organization. This appointment made it even less clear as to why the president would select a person for this position who, with his horrendous acts, had caused heartache and pain for the people of Iran and the Supreme Leader. What really lies behind these decisions? We must wait and see whether Mr. Ahmadinejad can find a convincing response to these questions or not.