Saeed Mortazavi

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Saeed Mortazavi
Saeed Mortazavi01.jpg
Mortazavi after a court session (April 2015)
Head of Social Security Organization
In office
18 March 2012 – 18 August 2013
PresidentMahmoud Ahmadinejad
Preceded byMajid Mousavian
Succeeded byTaghi Norbakhsh
Head of Taskforce to Fight Foreign-Exchange Smuggling and Drug Trafficking
In office
16 December 2009 – 14 July 2012
PresidentMahmoud Ahmadinejad
Preceded byGholam-Hossein Elham
Succeeded byFada Hossein Maleki
Deputy to Prosecutor-General of Iran
In office
29 August 2009 – August 2010
Appointed bySadeq Larijani
Prosecutor-General of Tehran
In office
18 May 2003 – 29 August 2009
Appointed byMahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi
Head of the Islamic Revolutionary Court Branch 1410, Press Special Court
In office
late 1990s – early 2000s
Appointed byMohammad Yazdi
Personal details
Born1967 (age 50–51)
Taft, Yazd, Iran
Spouse(s)Homa Fallah-Tafti
Alma materUniversity of Judicial Sciences and Administrative Services

Saeed Mortazavi (Persian: سعید مرتضوی‎, born 1967) is an Iranian conservative politician, former judge and former prosecutor. He was prosecutor of the Islamic Revolutionary Court, and Prosecutor General of Tehran, a position he held from 2003 to 2009.[1] He has been called as "butcher of the press" and "torturer of Tehran" by some observers.[2] Mortazavi has been accused of the torture and death in custody of Iranian-Canadian photographer Zahra Kazemi by the Canadian government[2] and was named by 2010 Iranian parliamentary report as the man responsible for abuse of dozens and death of three political prisoners at Kahrizak detention center in 2009.[3] He was put on trial in February 2013 after a parliamentary committee blamed him for the torture and deaths of at least three detainees who participated in the protests against President Mahmud Ahmadinejad's reelection.[4] On 15 November 2014, he was banned from all political and legal positions for life.

Career and actions[edit]

Before his prosecutorial appointment, Mortazavi was a judge.

On 18 May 2003 he became prosecutor general of Tehran, a position he held until 29 August 2009.[1] The post had been unfilled for the previous eight years, since Iran abolished prosecutors in 1995. In the intervening years judges performed the prosecutor's role.[5]

Death of Zahra Kazemi[edit]

Mortazavi in a press conference, July 22, 2003

Mortazavi is notable for his involvement in the case of Zahra Kazemi, an Iranian-Canadian photographer who died in the custody of Iranian officials in 2003. As a judge, Mortazevi was involved in some unknown capacity in Kazemi's interrogation. He was later assigned to investigate the disputed circumstances of her death,[6] although it was subsequently reported that Mortazevi had decided to let a military court perform the investigation.[7] In late 2003, the Iranian Parliament issued a report accusing Mortazavi of trying to cover up Kazemi's death and forcing witnesses to the event to change their stories. Murtazevi strongly denied the accusations,[8] although the government of Canada continues to claim that not only did Mortazavi order Kazemi's arrest, but he also supervised her torture and was present when she was killed.[9]

Suppression of press[edit]

Mortazavi is often portrayed in the western media as a symbol of problems within the judicial system of Iran. It has been reported that Iranians call him the "butcher of the press". As a judge he shut down 60 pro-reform newspapers.[5]

In 2004 he was behind the detention of more than 20 bloggers and journalists whom were held for long periods of time and forced to sign “confessions” of their “illicit activities”.[10]

In 2005, journalists reported receiving death threats after testifying about their alleged torture at the command of Mortazevi. In a press conference, Mortazevi denied the journalists had been mistreated while in state custody.[11][12] Also in 2005, Murtazevi ordered Iran's major ISPs to block access to Orkut and other blogging and social networking websites.[13]

On 15 February 2008, it was announced that Mortazavi had banned five Iranian websites that comment on politics and current events. Mortazevi was quoted as saying they were "poisoning the electoral sphere" in advance of Iran's mid-March parliamentary elections.[14][15]

United Nations visit[edit]

In 2006, Mortazavi was sent to Geneva as part of the Iranian delegation to the United Nations Human Rights Council, a decision that was met with some criticism at home and abroad, due to Mortazavi's controversial human rights record. Human Rights Watch urged Iran to remove him from the delegation, and other countries to decline to meet with the Iranian delegation until his removal.[1] Mortazevi's first official meeting was with the also-controversial Zimbabwean minister of justice Patrick Chinamasa.[16] Mortazavi took advantage of his position on the delegation to advocate the right of access to high technology, including nuclear power, for all nations. He also warned the council that it should avoid being manipulated into doing the bidding of powerful states, and that it should investigate human rights abuses perpetrated by western powers, notably human rights abuses in the War on Terror, extraordinary rendition, Islamophobia, criticism of the Islamic dress code and veil, and the suppression of the freedom of speech of Holocaust deniers.[17]

Student protesters[edit]

In 2008, it was reported that Mortazavi had detained students due to protest against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's government; the students alleged abuse while in jail.[15][18][19] He has been involved in more contentious cases since then as well. Mortazavi was a prosecutor on the cases of Roxana Saberi, an American-Iranian journalist accused of spying, and Iranian-Canadian blogger Hossein Derakhshan, whose posts were critical of the establishment[20]

Arrests of 2009 election protesters[edit]

During the 2009 election dispute across Iran, Mortazavi has been active in suppressing the protests. He has signed arrest warrants for reformers, such as Saeed Hajjarian, and is believed to be instrumental in the more than 600 arrests that have occurred across the nation.[10]

In early 2010 the Iranian parliament released a report identifying Saeed Mortazavi as "the main culprit in the scandal" over the Kahrizak detention center. The report stated that 147 prisoners arrested for participating in demonstrations against irregularities in the 2009 election of President Ahmadinejad had been "held in a 70-square-metre room for four days without proper ventilation, heating and food on Mortazavi's orders". Three of the inmates died, including Mohsen Rouhalamini, the son of a "distinguished government scientist."[3]

Mortazavi had maintained that the prisoners had "died from meningitis" and that "inoculation kits had been sent to detention centres" to stop the condition from spreading. This claim was dismissed by an examining doctor, Ramin Pourandarjani, who refused to certify it as the cause of death until he was arrested and forced to do so. Pourandarjani later died mysteriously after being charged with failing to properly treat the prisoners. The report rejected Mortazavi claim.[3]

The report however also "strongly rejected" reports that rape or sexual assault had taken place in the prison. Opposition websites have reported rapes at the prison including the rape of a pro-regime photographer, Saeed Sadaghi, which allegedly led to the closing of the prison. Sadaghi is said to have been accidentally swept up in the mass arrests and held at Kahrizak after which he complained to Supreme Leader Khamenei of his treatment. Khamenei later closed the prison.[3]

Deputy prosecutor-general[edit]

On 31 August 2009, Mortazavi was demoted to deputy prosecutor-general - "one of six deputies for prosecutor-general Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Eje'i" - by the new judiciary chief Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani. Observers disagree over whether the post was a promotion to "deputy to the nation's top prosecutor," with "a fancy title and protection from future legal action," or "a demotion" that strips him of powers he had enjoyed, such as the ability to order an arrest or halt to political activities. [21] Saeed Mortazavi is facing a potential investigation into his conduct of post vote trials.[citation needed]

Task Force Against Smuggling[edit]

In 2010 Mortazavi was appointed head of Iran's Task Force Against Smuggling, shortly after he was discredited by the release of a report by the Iranian parliament naming him as the man largely responsible for abuse of political prisoners committed in July 2009 by state security forces at the Kahrizak detention center.[3] The appointment was seen by some as an example of President Ahmadinejad's loyalty to his "dwindling" band of core supporters.[22]

Social Security Organization[edit]

Mortazavi was "head of Iran's Social Security Organization", a presidentially-appointed post.[4] In January 2013, Iran's parliament successfully "lobbied to have him removed" from this position, but following that, Ahmadinejad reappointed him as head of the organization in a "caretaker role".[23][24]


Saeed Mortazavi
Criminal statusawaiting trial
Criminal chargeUnlawful arrest[25]
Filing a false report[25]
Penalty2,000,000 Rials fine ($25)[25]
Suspended for life from judicial duties[25]
banned for 5 years from government work[25]
Partner(s)Ali Akbar Heydarifar
Hassan Zareh Dehnavi

In late August 2010, Saeed Mortazavi and two judges were suspended from office after a judicial investigation into the deaths of three men from torture[26] detained on his orders following the controversial June 2009 presidential election. This stripped him of his immunity as a member of the judiciary.[27] On 5 February 2013 a statement posted on the Tehran prosecutor's website announced Mortazavi's arrest.[28] Two days later he was released. No explanation was given for either the detention or his release at the time.[23]

The trial of Mortazavi and two co-defendants began on 26 February 2013. Charges against Mortazavi and his former deputy Ali Akbar Heydarifar, and former Judge Hassan Zareh Dehnavi include unlawful arrest, filing a false report, and assisting in the filing of a false report. "There are conflicting reports on whether the three also face murder charges."[26] On the opening day of proceedings, the presiding Judge—Siamak Modir Khorasani—announced the trial would be held behind closed doors.[26]

The lack of transparency of the trial has been criticized by Shirin Ebadi and others. According to Ebadi

The accused in this case, particularly former prosecutor Said Mortazavi, received direct orders from officials above him - including the Leader. Therefore, [the authorities] would never dare put him on trial in public."[4]

According to journalists Golnaz Esfandiari and Mohammad Zarghami and other sources,[23][26] the trial is "widely seen as an indirect move against Ahmadinejad", since he had "used Mortazavi to bring corruption charges against his political rivals" in the past.[4] The arrest came a day after Ahmadinejad "released a secret video in parliament where Mortazavi allegedly discussed a fraudulent business deal, implicating Iran's highly influential Larijani family".[24]


  1. ^ a b c Ghaemi, Hadi (29 June 2006). "For Iran, the Man Is the Message". New York Times. Retrieved 1 May 2008.
  2. ^ a b Saeed Murtazavi: butcher of the press - and torturer of Tehran? Jenny Booth and James Hider, 25 June 2009, The Sunday Times.
  3. ^ a b c d e Iran's parliament exposes abuse of opposition prisoners at Tehran jail, Robert Tait, 10 January 2010, The Guardian.
  4. ^ a b c d Esfandiari, Golnaz; Mohammad Zarghami (27 February 2013). "In Iran, Trials That are Just for Show". The Atlantic. Retrieved 27 February 2013.
  5. ^ a b "Top Prosecutor". New York Times. 1 May 2003. Retrieved 1 May 2008.
  6. ^ Nazila, Fathi (23 July 2003). "Report on Journalist". New York Times. Retrieved 1 May 2008.
  7. ^ Nazila, Fatih (24 July 2003). "Canada Recalls Envoy From Iran After Burial of Detained Reporter". New York Times. Retrieved 1 May 2008.
  8. ^ Nazile, Fathi (4 November 2008). "Arrests of Dissident Iranians Seen as Hard-Line Retaliation". New York Times. Retrieved 1 May 2008.
  9. ^ Reynolds, Richard (27 June 2006). "Canada Calls for Arrest of Iranian Official". National Public Radio. Retrieved 1 May 2008.
  10. ^ a b ”Iran’s Press ‘butcher’ to grill reformists” Ottawa Citizen 25 June 2009
  11. ^ "Journalists Receive Death Threats After Testifying" (Press release). Human Rights Watch. 6 January 2005. Retrieved 1 May 2008.
  12. ^ "Like the Dead in their Coffins: Torture, Detention, and the Crushing of Dissent in Iran" (Press release). Human Rights Watch. Retrieved 1 May 2008.
  13. ^ "Murtazavi ordered recent filtering". BBC Persian (in Persian). 9 January 2005. Retrieved 1 May 2008.
  14. ^ Karimi, Nasser (15 February 2008). "Iran shuts 5 websites". USA Today. Retrieved 1 May 2008.
  15. ^ a b Radmanesh, Mazyar (26 July 2007). "دادستان تهران: علت پیشرفت من "تقواح" است". Roozonline. Archived from the original on 2 June 2008. Retrieved 30 May 2008. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Roozonline" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  16. ^ Alavi, Nasrin (23 June 2006). "Tehran's red card to human rights". Open Democracy. Retrieved 1 May 2008.
  17. ^ "Mortazavi: Iran intends to closely cooperate with UN Human Rights Council". Islamic Republic News Agency. 20 June 2006. Archived from the original on 2 July 2006. Retrieved 1 May 2008.
  18. ^ Esfandiarii, Golnaz (25 July 2007). "Families Of Detained Students Describe Abuse In Prison". Radio Free Europe. Retrieved 30 May 2008.
  19. ^ "Iran university students demand release of jailed activists". Iran Focus. 27 May 2007. Retrieved 30 May 2008.
  20. ^ Archived from the original on 7 July 2009. Retrieved 25 June 2009. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  21. ^ Tehran prosecutor 'promoted' into obscurity?|31 August 2009 Retrieved 3 September 2009
  22. ^ Iran's Bubble Boys BY GENEIVE ABDO|29 January 2010
  23. ^ a b c Petersen, Freya. "Subscribe to Freya Petersen on Facebook Add Freya Petersen to your circles Iran: Saeed Mortazavi, ally of Ahmadinejad, released after mystery arrest". Global Post. Retrieved 28 Feb 2013.
  24. ^ a b Casey, Mary (5 February 2013). "Iranian police arrest ex-prosecutor and Ahmadinejad ally". Foreign Policy. Retrieved 27 February 2013.
  25. ^ a b c d e "Iran Judge Behind Three Deaths Fined $25". Al-Monitor. July 2, 2013. Retrieved March 6, 2015.
  26. ^ a b c d Esfandiari, Golnaz. "Political Payback Or Justice For Tehran's 'Butcher Of The Press'?". RFERL. Retrieved 28 February 2013.
  27. ^ Memarian, Omid. "Feared Iranian Prosecutor Falls From Grace". 4 September 2010. mianeh. Retrieved 27 February 2013.
  28. ^ "Former Iran prosecutor Mortazavi arrested: statement". Reuters. 5 February 2013. Retrieved 27 February 2013.