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Society & Culture

135 Lashes for Disgraced Prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi

November 3, 2016
Shima Shahrabi
3 min read

An Iranian court has sentenced disbarred prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi to 135 lashes over a case involving corruption during his time as the head of Iran’s Social Security Organization from 2012 to 2013.

Mortazavi is widely known in Iran as “the Butcher of the Press” for his efforts to shut down newspapers and imprison journalists during his time as a prosecutor for Iran’s Press Court.

After the verdict was issued on November 2, Mostafa Tork Hamedani, a lawyer for a group of plaintiffs in the case, said the verdict was “shocking.” He told IranWire the plaintiffs would appeal.

Mortazavi himself told IranWire, “I have not yet been informed of the verdict. I have made a personal decision not to give interviews.”

Hamedani is both a lawyer and a plaintiff in the case, which is based on an investigative report by Iran’s parliament. The report, which was read in a public session of parliament, accused Mortazavi of extensive corruption while he was head of the Social Security Organization.

In one case, according to the report, he took 133 million tomans, or close to $42,000 of the organization’s money, and gave it as “gift cards” to 37 members of parliament in spring 2015. The names of the MPs have not been revealed. The report also cites many instances in which Mortazavi gave gifts to the heads of news agencies and newspapers.

Workers who were insured by the Social Security Organization filed a complaint based on the report and accused Mortazavi of fraud, breach of trust, embezzlement, bribery, and corruption.

Hamedani has not met his clients since the verdict was issued, but is sure they will be unhappy with the verdict. “I was not in Tehran when the verdict was announced, but when I am unhappy as a plaintiff then they must be unhappy as well because I know what they want.”

Taghi Nourbakhsh, the current head of the Social Security Organization, told IranWire that he, too, is unhappy with the verdict. “We will certainly appeal,” he said.

Saeed Mortazavi was sentenced to 70 lashes for “taking possession of public property” and 65 lashes for “neglect in the performance of his duties and wastage of public funds.”

No Restitution

“Mr. Mortazavi’s offense is embezzlement but the judge has accused him of offenses related to public property and the treasury,” says Hamedani. “We want to ask that he be charged with embezzlement so that it will lead to restitution.”

He explains that when a crime involves public property, restitution is not taken into account. But do we know how much are we talking about if restitution is taken into account? “Yes,” he answers. “Of course, many different sums are involved, but in the court verdict, they have been added up into a lump sum. But this the lower court, and the final verdict has not been issued so I cannot publicly disclose it.”

Last year, Mortazavi was convicted of other offenses dating to his time as head of the Social Security Organization. He was sentenced to a year in prison, six months of which were suspended. He was also ordered to pay back the salary he had received during his tenure.

But according to Hamedani, two outstanding complaints remain against Mortazavi.

The first is from Abbas Palizdar, a former member of parliament and of the Parliamentary Judiciary Committee.

In spring 2008, Palizdar accused several high officials of the Islamic Republic of corruption and other offenses. In the winter of 2009, Palizdar was tried behind closed doors and was sentenced to 10 years in prison for financial corruption, libel, and spreading lies to mislead public opinion. The appeals court reduced his sentence to seven years.

At the time of Palizdar trial’s, Mortazavi was Tehran’s prosecutor. After Palizdar was released from prison, he filed a complaint against Mortazavi accusing him of threats and intimidation.

The second complaint is from Mahmoud Attar, who was an advisor to the Parliamentary Judiciary Committee and a codefendant of Palizdar. He was sentenced to two years in prison.

According to a Telegram posting by Hamedani, Mortazavi has been acquitted in both these cases.

Hamedani says Mortazavi has also been convicted for a third complaint brought by “a former member of parliament from Karaj and his wife.” Neither of the plaintiffs’ names has been made public.


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