Unprecedented Lawsuit Filed Against Supreme Leader, Top Iranian Officials
Lawyers Who Filed the Complaint are Facing Prison Time
Two lawyers in Iran, Arash Keykhosravi and Mohammad Reza Faghihi, filed an official complaint against Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and 18 other state officials on March 6, 2022, alleging gross negligence in the officials’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Although not explicitly outlawed, suing the supreme leader, the most powerful official in the Islamic Republic of Iran, is unprecedented.
Both lawyers are meanwhile facing prison time for filing the complaint. They were previously detained and charged with trumped-up national security charges while initially trying to file the suit in August 2021. Now they are out on bail while their trial proceeds.
They are among a group of lawyers and activists–referred to by Iranians on social media as the “health defenders”—who were seeking to file the complaint last summer when they were all detained and charged for peaceful actions.
Despite the very real threat of imprisonment, Keykhosravi and Faghihi have filed the suit, holding Iranian officials accountable for the unnecessary deaths of tens of thousands of Iranians due to an initial ban on importing vaccines and gross mismanagement of health services.
Prominent officials named in the 22-page complaint include former President Hassan Rouhani and his ministers of health, education, culture, and roads; Prosecutor General Mohamad Jafar Montazeri; the head of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), Ali Asgari; and Tehran Prosecutor Ali Alghasi-Mehr.
Lawsuit Alleges “Misuse of Power,” Constitutional Violations
The charges brought against the officials include “causing the indirect deaths of more than 100,000 Iranians”; “misuse of power and authority and lack of action in enforcing laws”; “spreading falsehoods and erroneous reports to the people”; and ignoring the experiences of the international health community in fighting the coronavirus disease.
The complaint is divided into six sections. The first focuses on the multiple centers of authority that “created much ambiguity” and prevented a unified governmental front in providing the necessary conditions and services to protect the public from the virus.
It notes that the authorities acknowledged the existence of the virus in Iran weeks after the fact and did not take the pandemic seriously for months, leading to unnecessary deaths:
“It is surprising that eight months after its formation, the National Headquarters for Fighting the Coronavirus (NHFC, in March 2020), the president, and moreover the Supreme National Security Council, … had not realized that their decisions have not been implemented or implemented properly.”
The second section deals with the lack of legal foundations in creating the NHFC and therefore lack of authority in implementing its decisions.
It states, “The establishment of the NHFC by the Supreme National Security Council was unconstitutional and outside its legal authority. The supreme leader’s approval cannot legitimize a matter that is against the law.”
The third section directly examines Khamenei’s role and notes eight specific examples of his statements and commandments that significantly contributed to the pandemic deaths, from dismissing the threat from COVID-19 as “enemy propaganda” that was aimed at turning people away from polling booths in the February 2020 parliamentary elections, to his initial ban on importing vaccines made in the US, UK, and France:
“The supreme leader’s latest order [on importing vaccines] does not absolve him of criminal responsibility arising from the ban on the timely purchase and importation of the best vaccines approved by the World Health Organization for carrying out urgent vaccinations, causing the coronavirus pandemic to prolong, killing tens of thousands of our compatriots due to contracting the COVID-19 disease. He has ensured the deprivation of life of many citizens of the country due to negligence and neglect in performing his legal duties.”
Section four details charges against former President Hassan Rouhani, including “lack of clarity in establishing a legal authority in battling the coronavirus, which led to confusion, illegal actions and unwise decisions under his government.” Rouhani also “played with people’s lives by ignoring the views of experts” and “dismissing warnings” by the National Medical Board, according to the complaint.
The fifth section points out the “unscientific decisions” and “strategic mistakes” of the NHFC, such as its refusal to ban numerous large, crowd-attracting Islamic ceremonies in mosques and on the streets, which led to the spread of the virus.
Section six explains the ramifications of Khamenei’s ban on vaccine imports and the vast state resources that were wasted on the unsuccessful manufacture of vaccines inside the country.
In conclusion, the complaint states:
“Given the above circumstances, and while requesting expert opinions from independent authorities … on further evidence regarding the criminal performance of state officials, we demand the aforementioned to be dismissed from public service, investigated, charged, fairly prosecuted and given the highest prison sentences for failing to utilize state resources and regulations, deceiving and disturbing the public, causing the death of more than 100,000 innocent compatriots, wasting billions and damaging the country, in accordance with Articles 145, 576, 616 and 698 of the Islamic Penal Code approved in 1996 and Articles 295, 506, 514 (Note 2), 526, 529 and 535 of the Islamic Penal Code approved in 2013.”
Read this article in Persian