Iranian judicial authorities attempt arrest of MP

Iranian judicial authorities attempt arrest of MP ... 29/11/2016 Politics

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Mahmoud Sadeghi confronted by security officials over his scrutiny of financial conduct of judiciary chief
By Saeed Kamali Dehghan Iran correspondent
Monday 28 November 2016 15.34 GMT
Judicial authorities in Iran have attempted to arrest a parliamentarian despite his legislative immunity because of the MP’s scrutiny of the judiciary chief’s personal financial conduct.
Mahmoud Sadeghi, an MP close to the reformist camp who represents the constituency of Tehran and its vicinity in the Iranian parliament, Majlis, was confronted on Sunday by security officials who had gathered in front of his house to arrest him.
Sadeghi’s supporters were angered by the move, and a group of students, activists and parliamentary colleagues assembled near his house to prevent officials from detaining him. It ultimately led to the authorities reversing their decision.
On Monday, Sadeghi described the judiciary’s move on Twitter as illegal, and said relevant officials had since intervened. “These pressures will have no effect on my determination and will, nor those of other parliamentarians in seeking transparency and fighting corruption in all [state] institutions,” he said in a separate tweet.
Earlier this month, Sadeghi had questioned the justice minister over allegations that the head of the judiciary, Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani, possessed 63 personal bank accounts filled with public funds.
Amadnews, an account run by an anonymous group on the social network Telegram, recently claimed that more than £50m was transferred to the ayatollah’s personal bank accounts annually from public funds. The judiciary has vehemently denied these allegations.
Officials have since said some of the public funds relating to the judiciary have traditionally been held in bank accounts apparently held by its chief but the secrecy surrounding it has drawn huge attention in Iran, as well as among MPs.

Judiciary chief Sadeq Larijani. Photograph: Ebrahim Noroozi/AP

* * * The judiciary is one of Iran’s three parallel political institutions; the other two are the government led by the president, Hassan Rouhani, and the parliament. The judiciary acts independently of Rouhani’s government and its chief is appointed directly by the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Khamenei’s oversight on the judiciary means that the hands of the MPs and the government are tied; parliament, which along with the government is an elected body, is not able to summon the judiciary chief, who is unelected, for questioning. It puts the judiciary in a position of great influence, unchecked by the public.
The judiciary and Rouhani’s government have been at odds over a number of domestic issues. Since Rouhani came to power, judges and prosecutors have made several controversial arrests or prevented various events from taking place, which is seen as undermining the moderate government.
Sadeq Larijani belongs to a family whose other members also hold senior political positions. One of his brothers, Ali Larijani, is the parliamentary speaker, and Mohammad-Javad Larijani is the head of the state-run human rights council.
This is not the first time the Larijanis have been accused of financial misconduct. In 2013, Iran’s former hardline president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in a dramatic sequence of events in the Iranian parliament, played a secretly filmed tape that allegedly showed that Larijani’s other brother, Fazel, was trading on his sibling’s influence for personal financial gain.
Prior to such allegations, Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani was considered a serious potential candidate to become Iran’s next supreme leader when Khamenei dies but many analysts believe those claims have scuppered his chances.
Ayatollah Larijani has rebuffed the recent allegations. “The rumour about personal accounts held by the judiciary chief is 100% lie,” he has said, according to Eghtesad Online. He has suggested that the claims were made by “seditionists and anti-revolutionaries in exile who are in touch with a corrupt section of the reformist movement”.
Sedition is the hardliner’s terminology for the supporters of the opposition leaders, Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, who have been placed under house arrest since 2011.
The Iranian constitution prevents authorities from prosecuting MPs because of their views expressed in the parliament or while exercising their parliamentary responsibilities. But the judicial authorities in Iran have numerously contravened the Islamic Republic’s constitution since the 1979 revolution including persecuting journalists and closing down publications although it explicitly prohibits censorship.
A number of Iranian MPs condemned the judiciary’s move against Sadeghi. Masoud Pezeshkian, the deputy speaker of the parliament, said it was disrespectful to the Majlis and the electorate. Mostafa Kavakebian, another MP close to the reformists, said on Twitter: “Summoning a member of the Majlis because he was doing his job is forbidden, let alone arresting him. We will pursue this matter in a public session of the parliament.”
On a separate incident at the weekend, it emerged that judges have sentenced Ahmad Montazeri, the son of a dissident cleric who was once in line to lead the Islamic Republic. The junior Montazeri, himself also a cleric, was condemned to be defrocked and endure six years in jail after he published online a secret audio file from nearly three decades ago that reopened old wounds from the darkest period in the Islamic Republic and revived calls for inquiry into massacre of political prisoners in the 1980s.
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