Infighting in Iran over Corruption Allegations within Judiciary

By Ahmad Majidyar | Fellow and Director of IranObserved Project - The Middle East Institute | Nov 28, 2016
Infighting in Iran over Corruption Allegations within Judiciary

On the evening of November 26, security officials tried to arrest Mahmoud Sadeghi, a university lecturer and lawmaker from Tehran – disregarding his parliamentary immunity. But the authorities backed down after Sadeghi’s supporters, including a number of parliamentarians and students, gathered in front of his house to protest the move. The controversy soon turned into the “most heated” political issue in Tehran the following day.

There were conflicting reports in the Iranian news outlets about what led to Sadeghi’s arrest warrant. Tehran Prosecutor General Abbas Jafari-Dolatabadi did not provide details but said Sadeghi’s was being prosecuted for “eight cases of special complaints” and “three criminal cases.”

Many reformists saw it as an attempt by the judiciary to silence Sadeghi and other critics. Sadeghi, in a recent parliamentary session and in an open letter to Judiciary Chief Sadeq Larijani, asked him to clarify allegations that he had deposited public funds into his private accounts. Amadnews had earlier reported that Larijani had deposited 2,300 billion tomans ($71 million) in his 63 personal banks.

Similarly, reactions by Iranian officials and outlets were divided.

Hardline newspapers backed authorities’ actions against Sadeghi and accused him of channeling the messages of “counterrevolutionaries.”

Several reformist lawmakers, however, condemned the judiciary’s act as “illegal” and voiced support for Sadeghi.

Mohammad Raza Aref, head of reformist Hope Faction at parliament, said if prosecuting Sadeghi was related to his call for transparency in the judiciary, the authorities were undermining the parliament’s legitimacy and effectiveness to monitor government affairs. Ali Motahari, deputy head of parliament whose speech was recently canceled by local authorities in the city of Mashhad, echoed a similar concern. Masoud Pezeshkian, another deputy speaker at parliament, called the arrest warrant “disrespectful” to parliament and voters and promised to investigate the case.

According to the constitution, the judiciary is only answerable to the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. And Khamenei has proven to be both protective of his control over the judiciary and opposed to publicizing cases of corruption among officials. As such, there is little likelihood that the Rouhani government or the parliament would want to pick a fight with the Supreme Leader's office even if the corruption allegations within the judiciary are substantiated. Former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad encountered a similar backlash in his last days in office when he accused one of Larijani’s brothers of corruption.

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