Remarks by Hassan Norouzi, spokesman for the Iranian parliament’s judicial committee and an MP for Robat, stunned observers yesterday. Asked by an Iranian media reporter why the Aban Tribunal was taking place in London instead of in Iran, the deputy speaker said: “I was one of the people who shot at people. We killed them. Now, who wants to put us on trial? The other side set fire to the banks and we killed them. Who do you want to put on trial?”
It’s not the first time that controversial comments by this mullah-MP have made headlines. Who is Hassan Norouzi, and what’s his record?
Hassan Norouzi, the MP for Robat Karim, was born in Mashhad and studied in the seminary before the Islamic Revolution. He was jailed for some time under the Shah and like some other young clerics, was recruited by the judiciary in the early -post-revolution years. His first job was presiding over the Ghasr-e Shirin court in Kermanshah. He was captured in Ghasr-e Shirin by Iraqi forces in 1980 at the very beginning of the Iran-Iraq war, and was held captive there for about nine years.
The Friday Imam of Robat Karim since 1994, Norouzi became the city’s MP in 2008. He began as a supporter of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but turned on the government after failing to get enough votes himself in the 2012 parliamentary elections, instead accusing the executive of widespread fraud. He was elected again in the 10th and 11th legislative terms.
Norouzi has always courted controversy. In parliament, he is also known for out-of-line speeches and verbal clashes with other deputies. In the run-up to the 2017 presidential election, he tried to create a charged atmosphere by making outspoken remarks ahead of registering as a candidate. The ploy didn’t work; he was disqualified by the Guardian Council.
Defending the Indefensible in Iranian Prisons
In January 2018, Norouzi made the suggestion that the suspicious deaths of detainees arrested in the December 2017 protests were people “dying of remorse” or suicide. “They thought about the ugliness of their work while in prison and this may have caused their suicide,” he said. “Many of these prisoners were bank employees and didn’t have any issue with high prices or unemployment.” He also claimed without evidence that Sina Ghanbari, one of the detainees who died in Evin Prison, had killed himself – something his family have denied ever since – and went so far as to explain the method in great detail, to Iranian media.
He weighed in again recently when leaked CCTV footage from Evin Prison showed wide-ranging abuses of prisoners by guards, calling the videos “Israeli filmmaking” and denying any torture took place. “I asked people who had been in solitary confinement and they said they were given Qurans and prayers to read,” he said. “They were sometimes taken out for a tour and visits. Sometimes they would say the air conditioning had been cut off; sure, when there was a power outage.”
Norouzi has also suggested that Hamid Nouri, aka Hamid Abbasi, is not who people say he is. The ex-Gohardasht Prison official is currently on trial in Sweden for murder and war crimes during the 1988 massacre. Norouzi said of the case: “We have no such a person, who was a prosecutor in 1988 and was arrested afterwards.” This was not a full refutation, as Hamid Nouri was never a prosecutor.
The lawmaker has defended amputation as a punishment for thieves, : "People should be happy with the execution of hodud [sharia law]. Before enforcing this law [the severing of the fingers] the person is examined to check that the execution of the law will not harm his body, and then they proceed to amputation.”
No Subject Off-Limits
One of Norouzi’s worst mendacities was in relation to the downing of Ukrainian Airlines Flight 752 by IRGC missiles in January 2020. The MP claimed the plane had been “in Israel” a week before it came to Tehran and appeared to have been tampered with. The Ukrainian government called his remarks disrespectful to the victims. Norouzi also claimed no-one had been arrested in connection with PS752.
The deputy speaker of parliament has also railed against social media: "The open spaces of Instagram and Telegram are a threat to the youth,” he thundered, “and this is a point of fragility for the system.”
Norouzi has also gone after other members of parliament and made claims about them several times in the open sessions. Once, he alleged he had handed 10 projects over to the MP Ahmad Amirabadi Farahani, and none of them had been raised in parliament. Were this remotely true, Amirabadi said, he would resign.
He also claimed he was pursuing 17 cases of embezzlement in the eighth parliament (from 2008 to 2012). Later, however, it became clear he was talking about a letter he had written regarding the corruption cases against Hamid Baghaei and Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei. Some MPs retorted that the content was not worth reading.
Despite these remarks, Hassan Norouzi has been a lawmaker for three full terms. His constituency near Tehran, like some of the capital’s other satellite towns, has a very high population density and its welfare, education, treatment and health facilities are not commensurate with the needs of the local population. As a Friday Imam, directly appointed by the Supreme Leader, he commands a great deal more power than he arguably deserves.