Culture Minister Asks Judiciary to Provide More Freedom of Expression
“Mr. Jannati is not at the level to define the Judiciary’s responsibilities,” Ejehi told reporters at a press conference.
According to ISNA, Mohseni Ejehi said, “it seems that over the past few months, through a current organized abroad, the anti-revolutionaries and sedition fugitives”—referring to activists who left Iran after the 2009 post-election unrest—”are acting against the Judiciary, and inciting people in this direction.”
In his January 11 interview with Al Jazeera English, when asked whether the new changes in the administration’s approach to freedom of speech means that “newspapers will not be shut down and journalists will not be arrested,” Jannati said, “Our scope at the Ministry of Culture is going to try not to close any newspapers and allow artists to feel free to create what they want. However, part of these activities fall outside our responsibilities and in some cases the courts and the Judiciary get involved and that is out of our control. But this administration tries to allow full freedom of the press and the arts.”
Referring to the current rapprochement, the interviewer asked Ali Jannati, “There is a new atmosphere. Does that new atmosphere extend to the Judiciary?” Ali Jannati responded, “Yes, but while the head of the Executive branch has changed, the Head of the Judiciary is still the same, so nothing has changed in that regard.”
In his criticism of Jannati, Ejehi said, “The Al Jazeera question was a loaded question, aiming to provoke people against the Judiciary. If an intelligent and savvy official is confronted by a foreign network, he must not answer such a question this way.”
Pressing forward, the Al Jazeera interviewer asked Jannati in his January 11 interview, “Would you like to see changes at the Judiciary?” Iran’s Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance responded, “Naturally, our Judiciary needs to be in tune with the changes that are taking place in our country, and we hope to see the same types of changes in the Judiciary as well.”
“In Iran we have a separation of powers: the executive, the legislative, and the judicial. Naturally, they do not interfere with each other. What is different now, is that a new president has been elected but the Judiciary operates separately from the Executive power. Our hope is that the Judiciary will bring about changes in response to this new atmosphere,” he added.
However, since the June election of Rouhani, the Iranian Judiciary has refused to deliver on promises to release 80 political prisoners and has accelerated the rate of executions in Iran. Last week, Ali Motahari, a conservative Member of the Parliament, criticized the Iranian Judiciary and demanded its independence from security organizations. The Judiciary, in return, filed suit against Ali Motahari for his remarks. Ali Motahari calls the lawsuit a measure of intimidation for other critics.