Iran’s infamous prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi, who received a two-year prison sentence for his complicity in the death of a detained protester arrested during the 2009 anti-government demonstrations, was finally detained and transferred to Evin prison on Sunday, Iranian media announced.
Just a week earlier, authorities had not yet found Mortazavi, judiciary spokesperson Hojjatoleslam Ejeyi said. Iranian activists and opposition politicians reacted with skepticism. Activists began hanging posters stating “Mortazavi Wanted” across the city, mocking the judiciary for their apparent inability to find a well-known public figure. A few days later authorities found Mortazavi in a house he rented in northern Iran.
Mortazavi’s conviction stems from abuses the court found he committed as Tehran prosecutor during Iran’s 2009 contested presidential elections, which led to waves of protests and the arrest of some 4,000 demonstrators. Three of those arrested – Amir Javadifar, Mohammad Kamrani, and Mohsen Ruholamini – died in Tehran’s Kahrizak detention center. A 2010 parliamentary investigation implicated Mortazavi, and after years of delay, the judiciary opened a criminal investigation into his role. A court ultimately convicted him for the death of Rohulamini, whose father was close to conservative figures in Iran.
On Monday, Kamrani’s father told the Iran newspaper that he did not understand, why, despite the similar nature between his case and Rohulamini’s, after 16 months a court acquitted Mortazvi of complicity in the murder of his son. “I am not happy about the length of the sentence nor the fact two different verdicts were issued for similar cases,” Kamrani told the Iran newspaper.
Dozens of Mortazavi’s other victims and their loved ones feel the same way. His name has long been affiliated with serious human rights abuses, including other deaths in custody, the mass closure of reformist newspapers in April 2000, and prosecutions of dozens of peaceful activists. Mortazavi’s two-year sentence appears very low for a crime of this magnitude, and activists have expressed concerns authorities might find ways to let Mortazavi leave prison without having fully served his time. But locking Mortazavi behind bars – even if just for now – has delivered one message: Justice may come late or with a lenient sentence, but even the most untouchable human rights violators aren’t invulnerable from accountability.