Iran's Eliot Spitzer
General Reza Zarei, Tehran's chief of police and a member of the Revolutionary Guard, has resigned under a cloud of scandal after he was caught and arrested naked, with no fewer than six nude women, during a government raid on a brothel.
General Zarei had spearheaded recent police operations targeting the enforcement of Islamic dress for women to promote public morality, which have resulted in thousands of arrests. In courthouses across the country, but especially in Tehran -- among lawyers, judges, court clerks, and police -- there is talk of little else. The story, which the Iranian regime has done its utmost to keep out of the press, first leaked out on the leftist Farsi website Peiknet more than a week ago.
The story has made its way onto several underground Iranian websites and blogs and has been confirmed by Pajamas Media by independent sources. The story gained credibility when it was reported by Farda News, which is said to be closely allied to Tehran's mayor and former police chief Mohammed Bagher Qalibaf.
According to these multiple reports, the raid and arrest were the result of a direct order from the head of judicial authorities, Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, and was executed under strictest secrecy, without informing or notifying the judiciary's chief prosecutor Said Mortazavi .
Shahroudi was aware of the very close relationship between Zarei, who had served as Tehran police chief for four years, and Mortazavi, and suspected that if he was informed, Judge Mortazavi would tip off his friend in advance.
It has been reported that Shahroudi was so worried this could happen that he fired an administrator in one courthouse who was close to Mortazavi in order to block any possible leak of information about this arrest to Mortazavi and his people. Mortazavi is said to be furious about the whole operation.
Reports say that Shahroudi, the head of the judiciary, has staunchly refused to back down from fully prosecuting General Zarei. General Zarei was reportedly freed on bail three days after he was arrested. Strict gag orders are in place against publication of the matter. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has reportedly agreed to move forward with the procecution, but has ordered that the procedure be kept quiet and secret, with strict orders against any publication in the press. Moreover, he has asked that the legal procedure be postponed until after the Iranian parliamentary elections set for Friday.
There is additional pressure to keep the story quiet so as not to damage the morale of the Iranian police force.
Peiknet reported that the initial sources of information on the private whorehouse were its neighbors in the residential neighborhood in which it was located. When undercover government agents responded to the complaint and conducted a stakeout to gather evidence, they became aware of Zarei.
With factional cracks amongst the powerful elements of the Islamic Republic, it is speculated that the decision to allow the operation involving Zarei to go forward was the result of fierce internal power struggles.
According to the reports on Farsi websites, during preliminary interrogations of the six women, when asked why they were naked, their response was "General Zarei asked us to do a group prayer. In the nude."
General Zarei was freed on bail three days later. On orders from the authorities, the press was banned from publishing the news, according to informed sources, which added that Ayatollah Khamenei accepted the request of Ayatollah Shahroudi for an "exemplary" trial of the Revolutionary Guard general, but in secret and after the elections.
Ardeshir Arian is a special correspondent for Pajamas Media; he covers Iranian affairs.