A day after the Larijani-Ahmadinejad public clash in the parliament (majlis), Mr. Saeed Mortazavi was arrested on Monday as he left his office and taken to Evin prison (1,4).
President Ahmadinejad was quick to point out that the judiciary is arresting the whistle blower instead of arresting those guilty of corruption (the Larijani brothers) (5). It should be noted that the judiciary is now run by one of the Larijani brothers.
For the uninitiated, I would like to recap why and how Mr. Mortazavi took center stage in the Iranian regime dysfunction on display this week.
After the 2009 Presidential "elections" Mr. Mortazavi was the chief prosecutor who presided over the televised journalist and activists confessions on state TV. He smirked as the opponents of the regime were made to confess to all sorts of conspiracies and wrongdoings.
He was also prominent in the "Kahrizak" scandal, where students involved in the post election 2009 protests were sent to the notorious بازداشتگاه کهریزک kahrizak prison (now closed by order of the supreme leader Khamenei). The 50 inmate capacity detention center took on 140 prisoners in 2009, including many student protestors who were subjected to systematic torture and mistreatment. At least three student died under torture, including Mohsen Rouhalamini the son of Mr. Abdolhossein Rouhalamini, a prominent conservative insider (2). He helped raise the profile of the kahrizak scandal and even confronted the supreme Khamenei during a public event and asked for justice for his dead son.
Mr. Mortazavi's name was prominent in the Kahrizak "parliament investigation" for failing to protect the student protestors and housing them with common criminals during their detention. Mr. Mortazavi is considered the "torturer in chief" by many activists who have for the past 4 years tried and failed to convince the regime to arrest and prosecute him for his 2009 crimes.
In lieu of arrest, Mr. Mortazavi was rewarded for his loyalty to the regime and the Ahmadinejad administration with various government posts ending with his appointment as the head of the multibillion dollar "Social Security Fund", a division of the "Department of Labor" and answerable to the minister of labor.
As part of the recent anti-Ahmadinejad offensive, the parliament (majlis) ordered the labor minister to fire Mr. Mortazavi a month ago. Instead of accepting the directive, the Ahmadinejad government changed the name of Mr. Mortazavi's department from "social security fund" صندوق تأمین اجتماعی to "social security organization" سازمان تامین اجتماعی and put it under the jurisdiction of the vice presidency (answerable to the president only).
Last Sunday the majlis (parliament) reacted by impeaching the minister of labor for refusing to fire Mr. Motazavi, and rebucking Mr. Ahmadinejad for trying to defy the authority of the parliament.
Sometime ago, president Ahmadinejad had apparently persuaded Mr. Mortazavi to invite the brother of his arch rival, the speaker of parliament, to a meeting where he taped Mr. Fazel Larijani trying to secure a favorable financial position in potential corrupt dealings involving a wealthy individual and investment relating to the "social security fund" (3).
As part of his speech to defend his minister of labor before the impeachment vote, Mr. Ahmadinejad claimed to have 23-24 hours worth of damning video and audio recording and offered 25 minutes of edited tape to the parliament. The recording was not audible due to "technical difficulties" and so Ahmadinejad proceeded to read excerpts from the tape during open session of parliament.
A day after the Clash between Larijani and Ahmadinjad, Mr. Mortazavi was arrested and sent to Evin prison In a apparent score settling. Mr. Mortazavi was not arrested for being complicit in the death of young students in 2009; He was arrested because he was taking part in a conspiracy to bring down the Larijani brothers.
The next chapter in this surreal episode of Islamic Republic politics is yet to be written, but it is becoming clear that Ahmadinejad is not willing to take the fall for the failures of the regime. On the other hand, Mr. Ali Larijani (the current speaker of the house) is the apparent "Khamanei choice" presidential candidate for the elections in June 2013.
Ali Larijani's actions against the lame duck president is the closest thing to active campaigning. As a sign of the supreme leader's blessing, the speaker of the parliament had quite a few high profile assignments by the supreme leader, including an official visit to Russia in recent months. He is trying to further build his credentials by criticizing the president and blaming him for the economic crisis in Iran. The attack on the increasing irrelevant Ahmadinejad is also serving to create a positive image for Larijani with the media and the Po-regime crowd.
I should say that I had a headache trying to decipher the infighting and "intrigue" in this Iranian non-story. At a time financial crisis and threat of war, the politcial termoil in Iran seems to be centered around protecting cronies and setling scores using obscure legal and constitutional rules.
I couldn't help but be reminded of an Iranian cautionary tale of Mullah Nasruddin, a wise man, who tries to break a fight between two men and in the process the two strangers steal his blanket. When asked "what was the fight about" he answers "my blanket!".
Iranians might feel the same way as Mullah Nasruddin as they watch the Larijanis duke it out with the Ahmadinejad camp over their "blanket".
In the meantime, Mortazavi was unconditionally released yesterday in Tehran with the government promising to "investigate" the corruption allegations.
Photo source: khorshid newspaper, PBS, metafilter.com, enduringamerica.com