Published — Wednesday 6 February 2013
Last update 6 February 2013 1:00 am
DUBAI: A former Iranian prosecutor linked to the deaths of anti-government protesters was arrested yesterday as a public showdown between President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his big political rival, Ali Larijani, gathers pace. Tensions burst into the open on Sunday when Parliament dismissed Ahmadinejad's labor minister for hiring the prosecutor, Saeed Mortazavi, and Ahmadinejad tried to protect the minister by taking the floor to hurl corruption allegations at the family of Larijani, the parliamentary speaker.
Ahmadinejad is fighting to remain relevant as his second and last term in office draws to a close. With Parliament and Larijani, a possible candidate in June's presidential election, becoming more assertive, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has called for unity to little avail.
"The Tehran prosecutor announced on Monday night that Saeed Mortazavi has been arrested," read a one-line statement from the prosecutor's office, giving no reason for the arrest. Mortazavi has played a central role in stamping out dissent since Ahmadinejad's disputed re-election in 2009, and has been described by Human Rights Watch as a "serial human rights abuser".
Before leaving Tehran's Mehrabad Airport for Cairo, Ahmadinejad struck a defiant tone, and said he would investigate the case on his return.
"The judiciary is not a special family organization," he told reporters, according to the state news agency IRNA. The head of Iran's judiciary is Sadeq Larijani, the speaker's brother.
"I don't know how it has happened that one person has committed an infraction, and another person is arrested," Ahmadinejad said. "Instead of going after the violator, they go after the person who has announced the violation, and this is very ugly."