Spokesman Berates Former President Ahmadinejad After He Accuses Judiciary of Corruption
The spokesman for Iran’s judiciary has publicly spoken out against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad after the former president accused the judiciary of corruption in a public speech.
At a press conference on November 28, 2017, judicial spokesman Hossein Mohseni-Ejei described Ahmadinejad as a “lout who has fallen out of favor” and who has hurled “dozens of lies and insults” at the judiciary.
“It seems some people have become accustomed to making false statements and telling lies,” he said. “They think they are above the law and bigger than anyone. They are so egocentric and arrogant that they think everything they utter is the absolute truth.”
“Has the judiciary become bad in recent years just because it has been prosecuting people close to you?” asked Ejei. “Wait and in the near future, you will see how the judiciary functions, God Willing.”
On November 24, Ahmadinejad sharply criticized the judiciary in a recorded interview with the Dolat-e Bahar website, which primarily publishes positive articles about him and appears to be run by his supporters.
“An independent judiciary has judges that are not forced to make a ruling,” said Ahmadinejad in the 39-minute interview. “But now judges have to carry out orders from Tehran Prosecutor [Abbas Jafari Dowlatabadi]. He decides the sentence in advance and the judge rubber stamps it.”
Websites affiliated with the former president were blocked in Iran and online searches of him censored on state-affiliated search engines and video sharing sties after he made a fiery speech at the Shah Abdol Azim Mosque in southern Tehran on November 15, 2017.
“I swear to God and the Prophet that we are against the Larijani family,” said Ahmadinejad, referring to Chief Justice Sadegh Larijani and his brother, Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani. “Is opposition a crime?”
“We don’t want the country to fall into their hands,” he added. “As soon as we criticize them, they say you were insulting and press new charges.”
Ahmadinejad fell out of favor with Iran’s ruling elite during his second term in office (2009-13) for promoting his own version of Iranian nationalism and publicly criticizing powerful politicians.
He began to publicly denounce Iran’s political establishment after the Guardian Council, which vets all election candidates, disqualified him from running for the presidency in May 2017. Previously, charges were brought against two of his closest aides, former vice presidents Hamid Baghaei (in 2015) and Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei (in 2017).
Ahmadinejad’s attacks on the judiciary stand out in contrast with his time in office, when he refused to condemn the prosecution of hundreds of Iranians who were arrested for peacefully protesting against his disputed re-election in 2009.
However, in his interview with Dolat-e Bahar, Ahmadinejad claimed that he had condemned the death of a blogger who died in police custody in 2012.
“At the Supreme National Security Council meeting I almost fought with the officials over Sattar Beheshti’s case,” said Ahmadinejad.
He continued: “I told them they had committed a crime. Why did you abduct the young man? What’s going on? … The poor man had only written some things on his blog and then his body showed up at his family’s doorstep.”
Ahmadinejad also made a passing comment about the state’s violent crackdown on the mass demonstrations of voters chanting, “where is my vote” after his re-election in 2009: “I criticized the confrontations on the streets. I asked why the people were being beaten [by the security forces] and said they had no right to do so.”
Hundreds of Iranians were arrested after state forces violently repressed the peaceful protests against Iran’s 2009 presidential election.
Ahmadinejad’s main opponents in that election, Mehdi Karroubi, and Mir Hossein Mousavi, have been under extrajudicial house arrest since February 2011 for leading the protests, which came to be known as the Green Movement.
Only one official has been held accountable for the arbitrary arrests, detentions, and wrongful deaths of protestors after the 2009 election. The Tehran prosecutor at the time, Saeed Mortazavi, has been sentenced to two years in prison for the death of one protestor, Mohsen Rouholamini, who died in the Kahrizak Detention Center after being picked up by security forces in Tehran during the protests of 2009.
Asked about his recent criticism of the judiciary, the former president said: “There may have been a period when the judiciary’s performance was acceptable, but now it’s intolerable. The country is in danger and there’s no hope justice will be served.”
“God Willing, the day will come when judicial officials would have to spend 24 hours in Evin Prison suits and then they will understand what’s going on,” he said. “If you visit the prisons just once or go to the courthouses, you will see how they are treating the people.”
Ahmadinejad continued: “The judicial officials themselves have said that 90 percent of the trials are behind closed doors. How come? You mean 90 percent of 17 million cases being handled by the judiciary involve actions against national security? What sort of national security is this? Someone steals a toilet or fights with his wife and they accuse him of disturbing national security. They are abusing their legal authority.”
Defendants in Iran charged with “national security” crimes have even less due process rights in the justice system than those facing criminal charges.
Peaceful political and civil rights activists and dissidents are issued long prison sentences in closed-door trials with limited access to a lawyer in the Revolutionary Court system, where national security crimes are tried. Lawyers and family members are often blocked from attending the court sessions, which are decided by one judge who often makes his decision within hours or days after the first session.
Many Iranians responded to Ahmadinejad’s speech on November 15 by pointing out the hypocrisy of a former violator of human rights now criticizing others for doing the same.
Masoud Behnoud, an Iranian political analyst in London, tweeted on November 24: “It’s hard to listen to Ahmadinejad for 39 minutes but I think we should… He’s saying what the people are saying every day but the words are coming from someone who was himself one of the worst offenders.”
“In 2009, the supreme leader attacked Ahmadinejad’s critics and accused them of making false statements against him and calling him a liar. I hope now it’s not going turn bad for Ejei, who today called Ahmadinejad an arrogant, egocentric, foul-mouthed liar,” wrote London-based Iranian media researcher Hossein Bastani in a sarcastic tweet on November 28.