Taps in Office of Legislator in Iran Prompt Calls for Inquiry

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TEHRAN -- Iranian lawmakers said Sunday that the country's intelligence minister should be questioned in Parliament after newly installed wiretapping equipment was discovered in a legislator's Tehran office, local news media reported.

Ali Motahari, a member of Parliament, revealed the discovery on Thursday on his personal Web site, Alimotahari.ir. His Web site was initially blocked after he posted the item, but it was accessible again on Sunday. Government insiders say that Mr. Motahari is a top candidate to become minister of culture and Islamic guidance in the cabinet of President-elect Hassan Rowhani.

In a reconstruction of events posted on his Web site, Mr. Motahari described how his office manager discovered fresh paint on the walls of his office on Tuesday. After a brief inspection, a security camera and microphones were found behind the air-conditioner. Images retrieved from the camera showed nine men installing wiretapping equipment in the room, Mr. Motahari wrote. He also wrote that the building supervisor and a shop owner across the street were intimidated into cooperating.

"When such an event happens to a famous member of Parliament, one can only image how much the ordinary people are being oppressed," Mr. Motahari wrote.

Several lawmakers on Sunday called for a public hearing to question Heydar Moslehi, the intelligence minister, who is aligned with Iran's powerful alliance of hard-line clerics and commanders of the Revolutionary Guards. Mr. Rowhani's election victory last month shocked the conservative clerical establishment and its allies, who have tried to silence their critics in the past.

"We must seriously ask the Intelligence Ministry to make everything clear and prove that the Islamic republic supports constructive criticism," Ahmad Tavakoli, a member of Parliament, said in a speech.

The episode suggests that despite Mr. Rowhani's landslide electoral victory and his calls for more freedoms and efforts to improve the economy, infighting in Iran's political system is likely to go on.

Wiretapping is common in Iran, and though Iranian officials are quick to point to the recent revelations about the United States' widespread monitoring of international communications, few Iranians are willing to publicly question similar practices inside Iran.

"We don't know why Mr. Motahari's office was bugged," said Ehsan Rastegar, an associate of Mr. Motahari. He suspected that "extremists" among either reformers or hard-liners might want to try to discredit Mr. Motahari, who is an outspoken conservative who also has expressed support for greater personal freedom in Iran.

In Parliament on Sunday a hard-line lawmaker, Mehdi Kouchakzadeh, accused Mr. Motahari's office manager of installing the wiretapping devices. Mr. Kouchakzadeh said that Iran's Intelligence Ministry was too professional and efficient for such an amateur operation.

"Maybe Mr. Motahari's actions make it necessary for him to be wiretapped," he said, according to the Aftab news Web site.

world

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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