Iranian official resigns over impeachment threat: media

Reuters News
Posted: Apr 15, 2012 2:39 PM
Iranian official resigns over impeachment threat: media

By Marcus George

DUBAI (Reuters) - An Iranian official accused of involvement in the torture of protesters while in custody has resigned from his post after parliament threatened the government with impeachment, Iranian media reported on Sunday.

Saeed Mortazavi stands accused of involvement in the deaths of protesters detained at the Kahrizak detention centre after the disputed re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009.

A group of lawmakers launched the impeachment motion against Labour and Social Welfare Minister Abdolreza Sheikholeslami this month after he appointed Mortazavi as the new head of the social security office.

"I suggested to him (Mortazavi) that he resign as head of Social Security Organisation in order to resolve the problem ... and he accepted my proposal," a senior lawmaker, Gholam-Ali Haddad Adel, wrote in a letter to MPs, the Fars news agency reported on Sunday.

The supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, ordered the notorious Kahrizak detention centre to be closed after an investigation revealed that three people had been tortured to death, including the son of a prominent conservative politician.

In a report published in 2010, parliament accused Mortazavi - then the prosecutor of Tehran - of sending to the camp 147 protesters who had been arrested in June 2009 for protesting against the presidential election result, which opposition parties claim were rigged.

He was later removed from his post as prosecutor.

Last month Mortazavi was added to a European Union list of Iranian officials who are subject to travel bans and asset freezes for abusing human rights.

Mortazavi still faces judicial proceedings over his involvement in the Kahrizak case and has been summoned for a hearing on Monday, Iranian media reported last week.

An impeachment motion against the Labour minister signed by 20 lawmakers was submitted earlier this month after he refused to sack Mortazavi.

The group said his appointment was "against the interests of the country, in conflict with the law and harmful to the benefits of 33 million people and their families".

Dubbed by some as "the butcher of the press", the former Tehran prosecutor also had a central role in shutting down reformist newspapers and arresting dozens of journalists.

Human Rights Watch has previously described Mortazavi as a "serial human rights abuser" whose "unsavory history goes back many years".

(Editing by Alessandra Rizzo)