Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad denounced the arrest of his former prosecutor general, deepening political rifts in the country ahead of June elections.
“It’s an ugly thing to do and I will certainly follow up on it when I return,” Ahmadinejad said before leaving on a two-day trip to Egypt, according to the official IRNA news agency. “The judiciary power should be that of the nation, not a family organization.”
Former Prosecutor General Saeed Mortazavi was detained on unspecified charges last night, according to the Tehran judiciary’s website. Officials arrested Mortazavi at 11 p.m. local time and transferred him at midnight to Tehran’s Evin prison, the state-run Mehr news agency reported, citing an unidentified official.
The arrest follows Ahmadinejad’s Feb. 3 sparring with Speaker Ali Larijani in parliament, when they traded accusations of wrongdoing and improper conduct, in the latest public attacks on the president. The head of the country’s judiciary, Sadegh Larijani, is the parliamentary speaker’s brother.
Mortazavi was suspended in 2010 after the deaths of three men arrested during the country’s protests that followed the contested 2009 election, which sparked mass demonstrations. He was subsequently appointed as the head of the country’s Social Security Organization.
His arrest comes two days after Ahmadinejad played in the parliament a badly audible video of a conversation between another one of Ali Larijani’s brother, Fazel, and Mortazavi. The president said this revealed the Larijani family’s misuse of power in business dealings, the Tehran-based Etemaad daily reported yesterday. Larijani responded by saying the issue was unrelated to the impeachment motion and accused Ahmadinejad of devising a “plot,” Etemaad said.
Ahmadinejad, barred from running for a third term in June, has been attacked by political opponents in recent months, who say he’s responsible for the country’s economic woes as tightening U.S. and European Union sanctions over Iran’s nuclear program restrict its crude exports and access to oil revenue. The president has fought back, threatening to make public documents that, he says, show some officials are corrupt.
Ahmadinejad is in Cairo to attend an Organization of Islamic Cooperation meeting, marking the first trip there by an Iranian president since Iran’s 1979 revolution. He was greeted at the airport by President Mohamed Mursi, an Islamist who was elected in June as Egypt’s first freely chosen civilian president.