Ahmadinejad ally charged, freed

February 07, 2013 - 5:03:42 am

DUBAI: A once-feared prosecutor at the centre of a row between two of Iran’s most powerful figures was charged and freed from two days’ detention yesterday, adding a new twist to their feud just months before the country’s next presidential election.

Neither Monday’s arrest nor the release of the former Tehran prosecutor, Saeed Mortazavi, who faces unspecified charges, have been accompanied by any public explanation from the authorities.

But Mortazavi was detained a day after his political ally President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad publicly accused the family of Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani of attempting to use their prominence for financial gain.

Larijani is a high-profile possible candidate to succeed Ahmadinejad, who is nearing the end of his second term and cannot run again straight away.

The timing of the detention suggested it was linked to the accusations and was a clear indication Ahmadinejad has lost the favour he once enjoyed from Iran’s most powerful authority, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The Tehran prosecutor said Mortazavi was taken to court yesterday for a hearing of charges against him before being released, Mehr news agency reported. The report did not detail the charges but said investigations were continuing.

Last afternoon, Mortazavi resumed work as head of the social security office, Fars news agency reported. His appointment to the post last year outraged MPs after a parliamentary report accused him of being linked to the deaths in custody of three protesters in 2009 when Tehran prosecutor.

The squabbling between members of Iran’s ruling elite has intensified despite repeated calls from Khamenei, the final arbiter on all matters in Iran, for officials to avoid airing their disagreements in public ahead of the vote in June.

The supreme leader is in direct charge of nuclear policy, but analysts say greater unity after the election may aid talks over a programme Western leaders say appears to be moving towards a weapons capability and Tehran says is purely peaceful.

Fars reported on Tuesday that judiciary chief Sadeq Larijani, the parliament speaker’s brother, held a meeting with Khamenei after Mortazavi was detained. 

Ultimately Mortazavi’s arrest was a key sign of the discord in Tehran’s corridors of power and his release was intended to restore calm, say analysts.