Tehran Prosecutor Sentenced to Prison for Protestor’s Death Denies Responsibility

Former Tehran Prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi, the only official who has been held accountable for the death of a protestor who was tortured in the Kahrizak Detention Center in 2009, has publicly objected to his two-year prison sentence, The Center for Human Rights in Iran reports.

Mortazavi, who has been implicated in rights violation cases throughout his career, also accused the Appeals Court judge who issued the sentence of being an accessory to murder in an unrelated case.

“As God is my witness, I had no knowledge of or anything to do with the guards who committed crimes at Kahrizak,” wrote Mortazavi in an open letter addressing the Iranian people on November 27, 2017.

Mortazavi was the Tehran prosecutor when Mohsen Rouholamini, Mohammad Kamrani, and Amir Javadifar died after being tortured in the Kahrizak Detention Center following their arrests on July 10, 2009. The three were among about 150 protesters who were rounded up that day for participating in the peaceful protests in Tehran against the result of that year’s disputed presidential election.

Mortazavi was deeply implicated in the transfer of the protestors to Kahrizak, and then falsified the cause of their deaths in order to cover up evidence of torture and murder at the facility. The protests of 2009, which were violently repressed by the state, came to be known as Iran’s Green Movement.

On November 26, 2017, Mortazavi was convicted of being an “accomplice to murder” and the “illegal detention” of Rouholamini.

“When Saeed Mortazavi accepted some responsibility for what happened in the Kahrizak Detention Center, Branch 22 of the Appeals Court decided he deserved a reduction of his preliminary sentence from five years to two years in prison,” said Hassan Kamali, the lawyer representing the Rouholamini family, in an interview with the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) on November 27, 2017.

In September 2009, the head of the Armed Forces Judicial Organization, Shokrollah Bahrami, said that 90 out of the more than 100 people who had been detained at Kahrizak and later released had come to his office and filed complaints.  Two months later, the organization claimed that 98 detainees had filed complaints but that “after compensation and mollification, eventually 51 of them agreed to withdraw their complaints.”

The case brought by the Rouholamini family against Mortazavi is the only one to be prosecuted to date. Rouholamini was the son of a former Revolutionary Guards commander.

In his open letter, Mortazavi denied that Rouholamini lost his life after being held in the Kahrizak Detention Center. However, in August 2009, the country’s top medical examiner determined that Rouholamini’s cause of death was “lack of oxygen to the brain and blows to the spine.”

In his letter, Mortazavi attacked the character of the judge who issued the sentence against him.

“Mr. Ahmad Shiri, the current presiding judge in Branch 22 of the Tehran Appeals Court, has been accused of being an accessory to the premeditated murder of 17 children and adolescents in the Pakdasht Varamin area [in Tehran Province] by the hands of Mohammad Bijeh [theh alleged murdered],” wrote Mortazavi.

In a letter submitted to the court on September 11, 2016, Mortazavi refused to take responsibility for his role in the deaths.

“As I was the Tehran prosecutor at the time, I express shame for this terrible incident, even though it happened without any deliberate intention, as God and my conscience are my witness,” wrote Mortazavi.

Mortazavi was removed from the office of the Tehran prosecutor in August 2009 but was later appointed as the head of the Social Security Organization in March 2012 by then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.  In 2016, a lower court ruling barred Mortazavi from government employment for five years and issued a $60 fine for the charges of “accessory to murder” and “false reporting” of the crimes committed at the detention center.

Before becoming the Tehran prosecutor, Mortazavi was linked to the death of Canadian-Iranian photographer Zahra Kazemi, who died while being interrogated in Evin Prison in July 2003. As deputy prosecutor general in the 1990s, Mortazavi was also responsible for the forced closure of dozens of news outlet and other publications that supported then-reformist-President Mohammad Khatami.