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Iranian Labour Minister impeached in fiery session


Source: Radio Zamaneh; photos by Hamid Forootan, ISNA

Iran's Parliament voted to remove the Minister of Labour today, Sunday February 3, during a volatile session steeped in accusations and conflict.

Ahmadinejad accused brother of the Parliament speaker Ali Larijani of corruption

Labour Minister Abdolreza Sheikholeslami was impeached by Parliament after its demand to remove Saeed Mortazavi as the head of the Social Security Fund was rejected by the minister. Mortazavi, a staunch Ahmadinejad supporter, is a prime suspect in the case that saw three detainees at Kahrizak prison die under torture in 2009.

Labour Minister Abdolreza Sheikholeslami defending himself

Today, the issue became a personal dispute between President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the head of Parliament, Ali Larijani. Ahmadinejad produced an audio recording, claiming it revealed a telephone conversation between Mortazavi and the parliamentary speaker's brother, Fazel Larijani, implicating the latter in "financial fraud." Fazel Larijani has denied the allegations since and claims the recording is a forgery.

Ali Larijani accused Ahmadinejad of creating tension in the country by undermining its "longstanding social norms and morals."

Larijani went on in a tit-for-tat accusation mode, adding that the president's brother had allegedly revealed that supporters of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad were guilty of corruption and collaboration with the dissident group People's Mojahedin Organization.

The statements threw the session into chaos for some time.

The MPs voted 194 to 24 to remove Labour Minister Sheikholeslami from his position, even though, according to Iranian media, the minister insisted that he had consulted with Intelligence Minister Heydar Moslehi about Mortazavi's appointment to the helm of the Social Security Fund.

Parliament has been mired in continued disputes with the Ahmadinejad administration over the past few years regarding various administrative decisions. The persistence of these disputes has forced Iran's Supreme Leader to urge the parities to settle down, resolve their differences and refrain from dragging their conflicts into the public arena.

Today's volatile parliamentary session reveals that the intervention of Ayatollah Khamenei has not been very effective, and the government branches remain deeply divided.


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