Former Tehran deputy prosecutor Ali Akbar Heydarifard, who was suspended for ordering the transfer of political detainees to a detention center where they were allegedly brutally tortured, has been arrested.
The torture allegations, however, do not seem to be the reason why Heydarifard has ended up in Tehran's Evin prison. The head of the Tehran Province prison organization, Sohrab Soleimani, said Heydarifard was being held on allegations
of "disrupting public order."
Iranian media reported in mid-March that Heydarifard had fired a gun in the air at a gas station in Isfahan, apparently to warn other customers who were angry at him for not waiting in line.
He was briefly detained by the police, who reportedly released him after confirming his identity. Some of the people at the gasoline station are said to have pursued the matter through Isfahan's Revolutionary Court.
Heydarifard was arrested over the weekend.
Heydarifard is known as "the walking stick" of former Tehran prosecutor Said Mortazavi, and has been nicknamed the "Butcher of the Press" and "Torturer of Tehran" over his crackdown on reformist journalists.
He was also implicated in the torture and murder of a Canadian-Iranian photojournalist, who died in custody in 2003 after being arrested and interrogated by Mortazavi.
Mortazavi, Heydarifard, and another prosecutor were all suspended over the 2009 abuses at the Kahrizak detention center, where at least three detainees died as the result of torture.
More than 150 Iranians who protested the reelection of President Mahmud Ahmadinejad were jailed in Kahrizak, where they faced physical abuse, including rape.
The scandal forced Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to order the detention center to be shut down in July 2009.
It was also the reason why Mortazavi -- who was considered untouchable -- fell out of grace, although not totally.
He managed to be appointed to other top government jobs, apparently with Ahmadinejad’s support, including as head of Iran’s social-security organization. That recent appointment led lawmakers to threaten to impeach Labour Minister Abdolreza Sheikholeslami, who had approved his new role.
Some reports suggested that Mortazavi had resigned as the result of the threats. Lawmaker Ali Motahari, however, said his resignation lasted only half a day.
Meanwhile, there were reports in April
that Mortazavi had been summoned to appear in court following complaints by the families of three postelection detainees who died in Kahrizak, allegedly after being tortured.
It remains to be seen whether Mortazavi will also end up in Evin prison, where he has sent scores of journalists, bloggers, political activists, and human rights advocates over the years.
The jailing of Heydarifard could either have a chilling effect for the former prosecutor and signal that his days might be finally over, or it could be a relief for him. Heydarifard may be an ideal scapegoat.
For many journalists who became victims of Mortazavi's hard-line approach, he represents everything that is wrong with the Islamic republic and is also, as one blogger has said, a reminder that the Islamic establishment cannot be reformed.
-- Golnaz Esfandiari