Ahmadinejad Ally In Rare Apology for 2009 Iran Protest Deaths

A close ally of former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has issued a rare public apology to the families of three men who died in detention during mass protests over the disputed presidential election of 2009.

“I sincerely apologize and express my regret and sorrow,” Tehran’s ex-chief prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi said in a letter presented to an appeals court on Sunday, and published by the semi-official Tasnim news agency. 

The letter, addressed to judges, offered an apology to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Iranian people and the families of the three who died in police custody at Kahrizak prison on the outskirts of the capital seven years ago. Mortazavi was arrested in 2013 on charges linking him to the deaths. He was disbarred from the law and politics in December 2014.

Protests erupted in cities nationwide after opposition candidates alleged electoral fraud in voting that had re-elected the hardline Ahmadinejad for a second term. The demonstrations became known as the Green Movement, and its top two leaders remain under house arrest.

“I hope that this apology and redress is enough to remedy and heal this wound,” Mortazavi said in the letter.

Previously, he had defended the treatment of detainees at Kahrizak during his time as chief prosecutor, saying he had “no regrets” and that “those who bring disorder against the government and the state cannot be put in five-star hotels,” according to comments published by Fars news agency in June 2013.

‘Forgive Me!’

News of the apology, which came just ahead of the Eid public holiday, dominated Iran’s reformist newspapers on Tuesday. The headline “Forgive Me!” ran across the front page of the leading independent daily Shargh, which said the statement was overdue and “seven years too late.”

The pro-reform Etemad carried reactions from the families of the victims, quoting one as saying that they couldn’t accept the apology, and another as wanting to reserve their comments for court hearings.

Etemad cited political activist Azar Mansouri as saying: “It’s a positive step and one that’s rare, if not unprecedented.” She added that those in positions of power should study Mortazavi’s testimony to make sure “such big mistakes” are never repeated.

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