The public prosecutor of Ahar city in East Azerbaijan province has threatened journalists with legal action over their coverage of local students’ recent allegations of sexual abuse by a teacher.
In an interview with ISNA news agency on Sunday, September 26, Rahim Abdollahi confirmed that a teacher from a village outside Ahar was being investigated for possible child molestation by the special branch of Ahar Revolutionary Court. But he also castigated members of the media for exposing the case, indirectly accusing them of “spreading lies” and “disturbing public opinion”. He warned that journalists who reported inaccurately would be prosecuted themselves.
Abdollahi had been forced to make an official statement on the matter after families of the young plaintiffs threatened to hold a protest in Ahar. He did not clarify what part, if any, of local media reports on the case had been inaccurate. He also did not comment on why the teacher in question had been released under investigation just hours after his arrest, without posting bail.
The alleged sexual abuse first came to light on Wednesday, September 22, after several of the 15 pupils at a rural village school near Ahar refused to go back into class. Both male and female pupils then divulged to their families that they had endured sexual abuse from their teacher for the past two years. Parents then apprehended the teacher themselves and handed him over to local police. But on being transferred to Ahar city, he was released just hours later.
Two families have filed a formal complaint against the teacher, who is understood to be about 50 years old and a member of the Basij. He is also said to have a close relationship with Ahar’s Friday imam, as well as several local politicians.