JFI| Human Rights Violator: Saeed Mortazavi

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Full Name:

Saeed Mortazavi

Background and Education:

Saeed Mortazavi was born in 1967 in Yazd province.  Mortazavi began his career in the judicial system in 1990.  He received his doctorate degree in criminology in punitive law.

Positions:

–          21 February 2013[1] to 18 July 2013:[2]  Supervisor of Social Security and Welfare Organization

–          August 2011 to January/February 2013:  Head of Social Security and Welfare Organization[3]

–          February/March 2012 to August 2012:  Head of Social Security and Welfare Fund[4]

–     November/December 2009 to June/July 2012:  Head of Iran’s Task Force Against Smuggling[5]

–     [31] August [2009] to November/December 2009:  Deputy prosecutor-general

–     [18] May 2003 to [29] August 2009:  Tehran prosecutor-general

–     Trial judge in Media Court Branch 1410

–     Trial judge in Judicial Complex for Government Employees’ Violations Branch 34

–     1994:  Head of Branch 9 of the Public Court in Tehran

–    Deputy prosecutor, and later head of judiciary in Babak

Violations of Human Rights:

Saeed Mortazavi is one of the most nefarious judges in the Islamic Republic of Iran’s judiciary for his record of violations of human rights.  Closure of 120 newspapers and publications and widespread arrests of journalists and newspaper editors are only a fraction of his track record during his eight years as a trial judge in the media court.[6]

Subsequently, in his position as Tehran’s prosecutor-general, he was instrumental in widespread arrests of blue-collar workers, women, students, and the ‘hoodlums’.  He was also the main force behind arrests of many known as ‘Palizdar Band’.  In a speech at Bu Ali Sina University in Hamedan, Abbas Palizdar made serious allegations against high level authorities of the Islamic Republic regime.  For this reason, Mortazavi arrested many of those associated with Palizdar and kept them for long periods in illegal custody and solitary confinements.[7]  Mortazavi was one of the leading figures in counter-intelligence[8] scheme in Iran, and had direct role in a number of such ventures, including the dossier of Siamak Pourzand, and those of the [Iranian] bloggers.  Saeed Mortazavi’s name is identified with extrajudicial measures such as the infamous murder of Zahra Kazemi, the Iranian-Canadian photojournalist, in Tehran’s Evin prison.  He played a key role in widespread arrests of political activists and pro-reform journalists after the 2009 disputed presidential election as well as the establishment of Kahrizak detention centre.

Saeed Mortazavi has been permanently disbarred and banned for five years from all positions in the Iranian government, media reported Saturday 15 November 2014.

Banning of Publications During the Reform Era:

With the election of President Mohamad Khatami in 1997 and commencement of the reform era, a period of reformist newspapers and publications began in Iran.  In April/May 2000, in a meeting with youth, Ayatollah Khamenei took a harsh stance against the pro-reform print media, subsequent to which Mortazavi issued an order for concurrent mass arrest of tens of reformist publications and papers.

During his eight years as the head of Media Court, Justice Mortazavi shut down 120 pro-reform newspapers.[9]  From spring until summer of 2000, Mortazavi arrested many notable national editors and writers and held them in State custody, thus terminating the golden era of pro-reform media.  Neshat, Asr-e Azadegan, Azad, Mosharekat, Aftab-e Emrooz, Sobh-e Emrooz,Arya, Bayan, Fath, and Gozaresh-e Rooz are few of such publications banned by Mortazavi.  Many complaints have been filed at the Judicial Disciplinary Court against Mortazavi with regard to judgements he rendered over the years.  Notwithstanding the fact that Mortazavi was found guilty in a number of such cases, there has been no enforcement of court findings against him.

Case of Zahra Kazemi: 

Zahra Kazemi was an Iranian-Canadian photojournalist who was arrested without proper charge on 23 June 2003 by Tehran’s prosecution authorities under Mortazavi’s leadership while photographing the assemblage of families of prisoners in front of Evin prison.  Kazemi was charged with spying without any evidence and without proper legal procedure,[10] and while she had a licence for her activities in Iran, the prosecutor’s office claimed otherwise.[11]

Four days after her arrest, Zahra Kazemi died of brain trauma.  [Dr.] Shahram A’zam, emergency doctor at Baghiattullah Hospital, who examined Kazemi, testified that she was tortured and severely beaten.  [Dr. A`zam] found multiple fractures and severe injuries to Kazemi’s skull and indicated that she was brutally raped prior to her death.[12]

Mohsen Armin, representative of the sixth Majlis and a member of the investigative commission on this murder, describes the event of Zahra Kazemi’s arrest, interrogation, and extrajudicial involvement of Saeed Mortazavi as follows:  “Mrs. Zahra Kazemi was violently arrested on 23 June in front of Evin prison while photographing a demonstration by the families of prisoners.  Rather than upholding the right of news reporting and stopping the wrongful conduct of the guards who attacked her, Justice Mortazavi, with no regard for Iran’s reputation or concern for how the opposition would take advantage of this incident, issued an order for her arrest.  After two days of interrogations, on June 25, she was handed over to the police.  Zahra Kazemi reported to the police that during interrogations at the prosecutor’s office she was subjected to beatings, especially in the head area.  That same afternoon, by the order of Mortazavi, she was transferred to Evin, and after a few hours the Ministry of Intelligence was asked to pick her up.  According to the Intelligence officials, the Ministry of Intelligence determined that her arrest was not necessary and ordered that she be returned to her residence and be interrogated there.  Justice Mortazavi, however, disagreed with this decision and ordered her continued detention.  During the interrogation Zahara Kazemi expressed that she was unwell.  At midnight of June 26 she was transferred to Baghiattullah hospital.  At 6:00 a.m. of the next day, June 27, her condition took a turn for the worse and she slipped into a coma due to internal hemorrhage, and subsequently died of brain failure.  The cause of hemorrhage was determined as a blow to the brain and fracture of the skull.  Despite the failure of her brain functioning, Zahra Kazemi was kept on life support until July 10 at which time her death was announced.  Following her death, Justice Mortazavi, outside the boundaries of his authority, and without the knowledge of the minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance, summoned the head of the Ministry’s foreign media, Mohammad Hossein Khoshvaght, and asked him to give an interview and pronounce the cause of Kazemi’s death a stroke.  After the interview given by the head of foreign media, [Mortazavi] contacted the media several times to ensure its immediate release.  According to Kazemi’s family members, the prosecution insisted on her swift burial”.[13]

Mortazavi’s involvement and his extrajudicial conduct in providing false information about this case was publicly announced in the report of the Commission for Article 90 of the Majlis and in the address given by Mohsen Armin at the 340 session of the sixth Islamic Consultative Assembly.

Mohammad Seifzadeh, one of the lawyers of Zahra Kazemi’s family, also confirmed Justice Mortazavi’s involvement in the murder of this photojournalist.  He noted:  “There were markings of two blows on Mrs. Kazemi’s skull.  Provoked by one of the judges who had said, ‘If you cannot take the camera, I will do it myself’, Mr. Mohammad Bakhshi struck Mrs. Kazemi once as she entered the prison.  Meanwhile, another judge held her from behind at which point Mrs. Kazemi lost consciousness and fell down.  The second blow came on the morning of day five, when at midnight, Justice Mortazavi along with one of his deputies and one guard went to prison to interrogate Zahra Kazemi.  It is unclear as to what exactly took place as a result of which she was directly transported to the hospital where she died of severe injuries to the brain”.[14]

At a hearing set to review the case, the court held an individual by the name of Ahmadi, a low-ranking clerk at the Ministry of Intelligence, responsible for first-degree murder.  He was subsequently acquitted.  Later, it was recorded in the court order that, ‘Ostensibly, Zahra Kazemi’s death was caused by a fall as a result of drastic drop in her blood sugar due to hunger strike’, and that the markings were caused thereby.[15]

Case of the Bloggers:

In summer of 2004, many journalists and bloggers were arrested on security charges and charges of moral conduct.  From the start, these arrests by the disciplinary forces involved violence and unjustified abusive treatments.  From September until November 2004, 21 bloggers and others involved in online news services were arrested, held in secret detentions, and tortured.  Subsequent to widespread domestic and international reactions, the detainees were released.  However, Mortazavi personally coerced four bloggers, who were tried later, to giving false confessions before television cameras.

Sina Mottalebi, Hanif Mazroui, Omid Memarian, Roozbeh Mirebrahimi, Shahram Rafizadeh, Gholam Tamayomi, Fereshteh Ghazi, and Mahboobeh Abbasgholizadeh are few names included in the bloggers dossier, some of whom were forced by Justice Mortazavi through various pressures, mostly concerning their personal lives, to make false confessions in court and in the media.

The judiciary acquitted 17 of these defendants of all charges, and forwarded the files of Omid Memarian, Roozbeh Mirebrahimi, Shahram Rafizadeh, and Javad Gholam Tamayomi for trial before the court where all four were sentenced to terms in prison and flogging for charges of ‘collusion and formation of groups domestically with intent to disturb national security’; ‘membership in groups and assemblies in the country and abroad with intent to disturb national security’; ‘propaganda against the regime’; ‘slander for the purpose of influencing public opinion through publishing articles in illegal newspapers and on websites such as Emrooz and Gooya, and interviews with foreign radios’.[16]   After their temporary release from prison, these four journalists reported that while in detention they were subjected to physical and psychological torture, and that they were held in solitary confinement with no access to legal representative or their families.  In their witness statements published by Iran Human Rights Documentation Centre, Roozbeh Amirebrahimi and Omid Memarian noted that after they publically revealed how bloggers were treated in prison, they were threatened by Mortazavi.  Mortazavi had sent a message to them that ‘many people in Iran die in accidents on the street, and journalists are no exception’.  He had also threatened Shahram Rafizadeh, who had three small children, that ‘he had put his children’s lives in jeopardy’.[17]

Kahrizak Detention Centre:

Subsequent to widespread protests after the 10th presidential election in Iran, a wave of arrests and suppression of demonstrators began.  Saeed Mortazavi was for the most part in charge of issuing orders of arrests of well-known pro-reform figures in days following the presidential election.  A number of recognized reformists were arrested on the election day prior to the protests, many of whom are still jailed.  On the afternoon of Friday 12 June 2009, the Campaign Office of Mir Hosssein Mousavi in Qaytarieh was raided and sealed.  The authorities who carried out the raid claimed that they were acting on verbal orders from Mortazavi.[18]  Furthermore, in the late hours of 14 June into the early hours of the following day, and prior to the break of widespread public demonstrations in reaction to the election results, the disciplinary forces attacked the university area and engaged in violent beating of the university students.  Although a number of recognized protestors were transferred to the Evin prison, circumstances were much harsher for the general demonstrators who were arrested on the streets, many of whom were transferred after arrest to nefarious places such as Kahrizak.

Based on a report from JARAS, drafted based on the final order issued by the judicial arm of the disciplinary forces: “Kahrizak detention centre was established in 2007 in the Kahrizak region 15 kilometers south of Tehran, for the purpose of holding detainees labeled as ‘hoodlums’. This facility was directly under the supervision of the commander-in-chief of the disciplinary forces of the greater Tehran, and the prison organization had no jurisdiction over it.  Investigation records and inspection of the location on 22 August 2009 revealed that the said facility had two holding quarters, and that the area where the arrestees of July 9 were held was approximately 65-square-meters with inadequate light, no air circulation system, and substandard drinking water”.[19]

This infamous detention facility became publically known after the death of a few detainees, including three individuals (Mohsen Rohulamini, Amir Javadifar, and Mohammad Kamrani) whose deaths were officially confirmed by the authorities.  The death of Mohsen Rohulamini, son of the deputy to Mohsen Rezaie, one of the candidates in the election, brought Kahrizak into the limelight and drew to it the attention of high-ranking authorities.  As a result, the closure of the detention centre was ordered by Ayatollah Kamenei based on “substandard conditions”.  Furthermore, a special parliamentary commission mandated by the National Security High Council and the Islamic Consultative Council was formed to inquire about post-election events.  The special parliamentary commission identified Mortazavi responsible for post-election events and in charge of ordering the transfer of arrestees of July 9 to Kahrizak detention centre.[20]

Panjareh newspaper, in a special edition on 19 September 2009 concerning Karizak, wrote that Ayatollah Khamenei ordered the closure of Kahrizak on 13 July.  However, Mortazavi, under the pretext of lack of space in other prisons, evaded the order.[21]  Alireza Zakani, Tehran’s representative and the editor-in-chief of the noted paper, made a statement in the Majlis holding Mortazavi responsible for all the incidents at Kahrizak.  Zakani stated that the order to transfer the arrestees of 9 July 2009 to Kahrizak was issued by Mortazavi personally.

In the indictment pertaining to the case of the detention facility, twelve low-ranking authorities were named and put on trial.  Consequently, two disciplinary officers were convicted of “involvement in murder” and thus sentenced to death under the law of Qisas [retribution].  However, the families did not consent to their death and instead demanded for trial and punishment of the ‘commanders’ involved in the murder of their sons.

In the course of the trial,[22] two of the defendants testified that they were sent by the orders of Mortazavi to the facility’s in-house physician to ask him to write the cause of death as ‘meningitis’ on the death certificate, but the physician refused.  They then approached the on-call physician in the clinic, Ramin Pourandarjani, who also refused.  Later on in October/November 2009, the noted on-call physician was found dead at the clinic of the disciplinary forces.  The parliamentary inquiry commission and public prosecutor (Jaffari Tehrani) announced his death due to poisoning by medication.  Others declared his death as a result of a heart attack.  Some websites announced his death suicide, while others, particularly websites belonging to the Green Movement, alleged that the doctor was killed because of the Kahrizak murders, and that prior to his death he had spoken to his friends about his concerns for his own safety.[23]  His body was buried hastily, under close security watch, without autopsy, despite his family’s demand.

On 26 November 2009, in the final order of the military prosecution’s investigator, incidents of tortured and abuse in Kahrizak and conditions of the facility were noted, including:  complete undressing of the arrestees at intake; holding the arrestees in the same area as the hoodlums;  incidents where the detainees were hung upside down, or buried in the earth up to the neck—as they do for stoning—and left alone in that condition for hours without food or water; beatings using water pipes; holding 160 detainees in a 65-square-meter area with 37 hoodlums among them involved in their abuse; a suffocating area with only three small openings for air, two toilet facilities for the entire crowd—one of which out of order and the other without a door; no showers; and lack of sufficient food and sanitary conditions.

On 18 November 2013, Esmail Ahmadi Moghaddam, Iran’s chief of police, stated that Saeed Mortazavi was insisting that the post-election arrestees were armed with “knives, poniards, and chains”, and therefore had to be held in Kahrizak with the hoodlums.[24] The statement was rejected by Saeed Mortazavi.[25]

Suspension orders for Saeed Mortazavi, former prosecutor general of Tehran, Hasan Dehnavi (a.k.a. justice Haddad), Tehran’s prosecutor’s office deputy for security affairs, and Ali Akbar Heydarifar, Mortazavi’s deputy who issued the transfer orders for the post-election protestors to Kahrizak, were issued by the Military Court on 15 August 2010 for their offences concerning Kahrizak.  Subsequently the dossier of the three judges with regard to Kahrizak was forwarded to special court for government employees for further investigations and preliminary inquiries.[26]  Immediately after Mortazavi’s dismissal from the judiciary, he was transferred to the executive forces where he, to the last days of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s presidency, held the position as the head of Iran’s Task Force Against Smuggling, and later as the head of Social Security and Welfare Organization.

In July 2013, Mortazavi and the other two judges were convicted by the preliminary court for illegal arrests and banned permanently from holding positions in the judiciary and suspended for 5 years [each] from other government services.  Furthermore, the court named Mortazavi the primary culprit for “false reporting” and sentenced him to 200,000 tomans monetary fine.[27]  Currently (as of May 2014), the file is under review by the Court of Appeal.

See More:

A life of Crime: From Kazemi to Kahrizak

——–

[1] Official government website, 23 January 2012

[2] ILNA, 18 August 2013

[3] In August 2011, the government of Iran ratified a bill to change the title of the “Social Security and Welfare Fund”, to the “Social Security and Welfare Organization” and appointed Saeed Mortazavi as the head of that organization

[4] BBC-Persian, 15 January 2012

[5] Tabnak website, 15 July 2012

[6] ISNA, 21 December 2013

[7] Radio Farda, 22 June 2008

[8] For more information see Ramezani’s profile

[9] ISNA, 21 December 2013

[10] Hamshahri, 21 July 2003

[11] BBC-Persian, 28 October 2003

[12] BBC-Persian, 31 March 2005

[13] Bahar newspaper, 17 December 2013

[14] Radio Farda, 31 August 2009

[15] Iran Human Rights Documentation Centre

[16] Human Rights Watch, 12 December 2006

[17] Iran Human Rights Documentation Centre

[18] Radio France, 12 June 2009

[19] JARAS website, 27 December 2010

[20] BBC-Persian, 13 February 2011

[21] BBC-Persian, 6 October 2009

[22] Full text of the indictment in pdf format is attached

[23] JARAS website, 19 November 2009

[24] BBC-Persian, 18 November 2013

[25] BBC-Persian, 20 November 2013

[26] BBC-Persian, 14 November 2013

[27] BBC-Persian, 2 July 2013

Source: Justice for Iran

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