Nabz News Review - January 31, 2014

Individual Iranian citizens are often subjects of repression when it comes to freedom of expression. News earlier this months however, focused considerably on the inability for the government to even hold itself accountable, particularly the inability to hold the powerful judiciary in Iran accountable for its actions. The judicial system in Iran is often seen as an extension of the Supreme Leader’s power as he has full authority over it and is responsible for appointing the chief of the judiciary. The current head of the judiciary, Sadeq Ardeshir Amoli Larijani, has even said that the judicial system should reflect the will of the Supreme Leader. This however, calls into the question the independent nature of the judiciary and the ability to challenge or hold it accountable.

Despite the potential backlash of openly challenging and questioning the actions of the government, in a speech in the Iranian parliament, prominent conservative parliamentarian, Ali Motahari, openly criticized the system and publicly addressed a well known open secret in Iran: that Iran’s powerful judiciary is not independent. In response to this, the Tehran prosecutor's launched a criminal case against Motahari over his speech. Motahari responded to this by calling the judiciary’s actions illegal and accused it of trying to silence him and deny him his constitutional right as a members of parliament to comment on the country's affairs. Similarly, the Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance, Ali Jannati, was questioned in the Iranian parliament earlier this month by a hard-line lawmaker over his comments regarding the closure of newspapers by Iranian authorities. Jannati also publicly stated that the Iranian Judiciary should provide more freedom of expression to Iranian media and artists. His remarks however, drew strong criticism from Iran’s Prosecutor General and Spokesperson for the Judiciary Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejehi saying, “It seems that over the past few months, through a current organized abroad, the anti-revolutionaries and sedition fugitives”— referring to activists who left Iran after the 2009 post-election unrest — “are acting against the Judiciary, and inciting people in this direction.”

Another incident that has raised question regarding the relationship between the independent nature of the judiciary and the Supreme Leader involves religious eulogizer, Mahmoud Karimi, who is also close to the Supreme leader. Karimi was involved in a shooting incident in Tehran, but was not arrested or charged. Ahmad Reza Radan, the deputy head of Iran's police said that the media has exaggerated the story, and the Spokesperson for the Judiciary, Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejehi, has requested that newspapers to stop reporting on the incident. Many are speculating that this is an attempt to protect a close follower of the leader from any judicial proceedings. Finally, earlier this month the Special Parliamentary Probe Committee released a report implicating Saeed Mortazavi of corruption and bribery while he was the chairman of the Social Security Organization. According to the report, 1.3 billion rials was taken from the organizations budget and was given to 37 members of parliament. Recent statements from the spokesman for the judiciary are indicating a reluctance to move forward with the charges, however.  One political observer in Tehran said, “Saeed Mortazavi knows a lot of secrets. He has been leading the government crackdowns for 16 years. He knows all about political and economic corruption in the government. Given the circumstances, do you really think that the judiciary will dare imprison him?”