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Saeed Murtazavi is a controversial Iranian jurist and former prosecutor of the Islamic Revolutionary Court, and Prosecutor General of Tehran, a position he has held from 2003 to 2009.[1] He has been called as "butcher of the press" and "torturer of Tehran" by some observers[2]. Murtazavi has been accused of the torture and death in custody of Iranian-Canadian photographer Zahra Kazemi by the Canadian government[2] and was named by 2010 Iranian parliamentary report as the man responsible for abuse of dozens and death of three political prisoners at Kahrizak detention center in 2009.[3] He is now deputy prosecutor-general of Iran.

Career and actions

Before his prosecutorial appointment, Murtazavi was a judge.

On 18 May 2003 he became Prosecutor General of Tehran, a position he has held since till 29 August 2009.[1] It had been unfilled for the previous eight years, since Iran abolished prosecutors in 1995. In the intervening years judges performed the prosecutor's role.[4]

Zahra Kazemi

Murtazavi is notable for his involvement in the case of Zahra Kazemi, an Iranian-Canadian photographer who died in the custody of Iranian officials in 2003. As a judge, Murtazevi was involved in some unknown capacity in Kazemi's interrogation. He was later assigned to investigate the disputed circumstances of her death,[5] although it was subsequently reported that Mortazevi had decided to let a military court perform the investigation.[6] In late 2003, the Iranian Parliament issued a report accusing Mortazavi of trying to cover up Kazemi's death and forcing witnesses to the event to change their stories. Murtazevi strongly denied the accusations,[7] although the government of Canada continues to claim that not only did Mortazavi order Kazemi's arrest, but he also supervised her torture and was present when she was killed.[8]

The Press

Murtazavi is often portrayed in the western media as a symbol of problems within the judicial system of Iran. It has been reported that Iranians call him the "butcher of the press". As a judge he shut down 60 pro-reform newspapers.[4]

In 2004 he was behind the detention of more than 20 bloggers and journalists whom were held for long periods of time and forced to sign “confessions” of their “illicit activities”.[9]

In 2005, journalists reported receiving death threats after testifying about their alleged torture at the command of Mortazevi. In a press conference, Murtazevi denied the journalists had been mistreated while in state custody.[10][11] Also in 2005, Murtazevi ordered Iran's major ISPs to block access to Orkut and other blogging and social networking websites.[12]

On 15 February 2008, it was announced that Murtazavi had banned five Iranian websites that comment on politics and current events. Murtazevi was quoted as saying they were "poisoning the electoral sphere" in advance of Iran's mid-March parliamentary elections.[13][14]

United Nations visit

In 2006, Mortazavi was sent to Geneva as part of the Iranian delegation to the United Nations Human Rights Council, a decision that was met with some criticism at home and abroad, due to Mortazavi's controversial human rights record. Human Rights Watch urged Iran to remove him from the delegation, and other countries to decline to meet with the Iranian delegation until his removal.[1][15] Mortazevi's first official meeting was with the also-controversial Zimbabwean minister of justice Patrick Chinamasa.[16] Mortazavi took advantage of his position on the delegation to advocate the right of access to high technology, including nuclear power, for all nations. He also warned the council that it should avoid being manipulated into doing the bidding of powerful states, and that it should investigate human rights abuses perpetrated by western powers, notably human rights abuses in the War on Terror, extraordinary rendition, Islamophobia, criticism of the Islamic dress code and veil, and the suppression of the freedom of speech of Holocaust deniers.[17]

Student protesters

In 2008, it was reported that Mortazavi had detained students due to protest against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's government; the students alleged abuse while in jail.[14] [14] [18][19] He has been involved in more contentious cases since then as well. Mortazavi was a prosecutor on the cases of Roxana Saberi, an American-Iranian journalist accused of spying, and Iranian-Canadian blogger Hossein Derakhshan, whose posts were critical of the establishment.[20]

Arrests of 2009 election protesters

During the 2009 election dispute across Iran, Mortazavi has been active in suppressing the protests. He has signed arrest warrants for reformers, such as Saeed Hajjarian, and is believed to be instrumental in the more than 600 arrests that have occurred across the nation.[9]

In early 2010 the Iranian parliament released a report identifying Saeed Mortazavi, as "the main culprit in the scandal" over the Kahrizak detention center. The report stated that 147 prisoners arrested for participating in demonstrations against irregularities in the 2009 election of President Ahmadinejad had been "held in a 70-square-metre room for four days without proper ventilation, heating and food on ­Mortazavi's orders". Three of the inmates died, including Mohsen Rouhalamini, the son of a "distinguished ­government scientist."[3]

Mortazavi had maintained that the prisoners had "died from meningitis" and that "inoculation kits had been sent to detention centres" to stop the condition from spreading. This claim was dismissed by an examining doctor, Ramin Pourandarjani, who refused to certify it as the cause of death until he was arrested and forced to do so. Pourandarjani later died mysteriously after being charged with failing to properly treat the prisoners. The report rejected Mortazavi claim.[3]

The report however also "strongly rejected" reports that rape or sexual assault had taken place in the prison. Opposition websites have reported rapes at the prison including the rape of a pro-regime photographer, Saeed Sadaghi, which allegedly led to the closing of the prison. Sadaghi is said to have been accidentally swept up in the mass arrests and held at Kahrizak after which he complained to Supreme Leader Khamenei of his treatment. Khamenei later closed the prison.[3]

Deputy prosecutor-general

In August 31, 2009, Mortazavi was demoted to deputy prosecutor-general - "one of six deputies for prosecutor-general Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Eje'i" - by the new judiciary chief Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani. Observers disagree over whether the post was a promotion to "deputy to the nation's top prosecutor," with "a fancy title and protection from future legal action," or "a demotion" that strips him of powers he had enjoyed, such as the ability to order an arrest or halt to political activities. [21] Saeed Mortazavi is facing a potential investigation into his conduct of post vote trials.[citation needed]

Task Force Against Smuggling

In 2010 Mortazavi was appointed head of Iran's Task Force Against Smuggling, shortly after he was discredited by the release of a report by the Iranian parliament naming him as the man largely responsible for abuse of political prisoners committed in July 2009 by state security forces at the Kahrizak detention center.[3] The appointment was seen by some as an example of President Ahmadinejad's loyalty to his "dwindling" band of core supporters.[22]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Ghaemi, Hadi (2006-06-29). "For Iran, the Man Is the Message". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-05-01.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Saeed Murtazavi: butcher of the press - and torturer of Tehran? Jenny Booth and James Hider, June 25, 2009
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Iran's parliament exposes abuse of opposition prisoners at Tehran jail, Robert Tait, 10 January 2010
  4. 4.0 4.1 "World Briefing: Iran: Top Prosecutor". New York Times. 2003-05-01. Retrieved 2008-05-01.
  5. Nazila, Fathi (2003-07-23). "World Briefing: Iran: Report on Journalist". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-05-01.
  6. Nazila, Fatih (2003-07-24). "Canada Recalls Envoy From Iran After Burial of Detained Reporter". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-05-01.
  7. Nazile, Fathi (2008-11-04). "Arrests of Dissident Iranians Seen as Hard-Line Retaliation". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-05-01.
  8. Reynolds, Richard (2006-06-27). "Canada Calls for Arrest of Iranian Official". National Public Radio. Retrieved 2008-05-01.
  9. 9.0 9.1 ”Iran’s Press ‘butcher’ to grill reformists” Ottawa Citizen June 25, 2009
  10. Template:Cite press release
  11. Template:Cite press release
  12. "Murtazavi ordered recent filtering" (in Persian). BBC Persian. 2005-01-09. Retrieved 2008-05-01.
  13. Karimi, Nasser (2008-02-15). "Iran shuts 5 websites". USA Today. Retrieved 2008-05-01.
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 Radmanesh, Mazyar (2007-07-26). "دادستان تهران: علت پیشرفت من "تقواح" است". Roozonline. Archived from the original on 2008-06-02. Retrieved 2008-05-30. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Roozonline" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Roozonline" defined multiple times with different content
  15. Jardin, Xeni (2006-06-27). "Iran's UN Human Rights appointees: no friends of net, press". Boing Boing. Retrieved 2008-05-01.
  16. Alavi, Nasrin (2006-06-23). "Tehran's red card to human rights". Retrieved 2008-05-01.
  17. "Mortazavi: Iran intends to closely cooperate with UN Human Rights Council". Islamic Republic News Agency. 2006-06-20. Retrieved 2008-05-01.[dead link]
  18. Esfandiarii, Golnaz (2007-07-25). "Iran: Families Of Detained Students Describe Abuse In Prison". RadiofreeEurope. Retrieved 2008-05-30.
  19. "Iran university students demand release of jailed activists". Iranfocus. 2007-05-27. Retrieved 2008-05-30.
  21. IRAN: Tehran prosecutor 'promoted' into obscurity? |August 31, 2009 accessed 3 September 2009
  22. Iran's Bubble Boys BY GENEIVE ABDO | JANUARY 29, 2010

External links

de:Said Mortasawi fa:سعید مرتضوی fr:Saïd Mortazavi nl:Saeed Mortazavi

Iran Human Rights Documentation Center. "Violent Aftermath: The 2009 Election and Suppression of Dissent in Iran." Feb. 2010, New Haven, CT. p. 54

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