Skip to main content

Iranian MP threatens to impeach intelligence minister

An Iranian parliamentarian has threatened to begin impeachment procedures against the intelligence minister if he is not forthcoming about recent arrests of activists using Telegram.
Iranian lawmaker Ali Motahari speaks during a reformist campaign for upcoming parliamentary election, in Tehran February 18, 2016. REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi/TIMA  ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY.    - RTX27KC9

In anticipation of the May 19 presidential elections, Iranian security agencies have reportedly gone on an arrest spree, rounding up activists who use the Telegram app, prompting one Iranian parliamentarian to demand answers. Outspoken Ali Motahari, also deputy speaker of the parliament, told the Iranian Students’ News Agency (ISNA) that 12 activists with Telegram accounts have been arrested. According to him, those detained were either Reformists or supporters of President Hassan Rouhani's administration. The activists' Telegram accounts were reportedly shut down after their detention.

Telegram, an instant messaging app, is also a source of news and entertainment and is popular among Iranians of all ages. Many government officials, newspapers, journalists and individuals posting news feeds have their own channels and have attracted large followings.

Motahari's criticisms include that the arrests have taken place just before the Iranian New Year, thus during a parliamentary recess when the legislature cannot publicly address the issue and seek information. Suggesting that the arrests are intended to hurt Rouhani's chances at a second term, Motahari said that they “spread doubts” among the public in the run-up to the presidential election.

According to the website of Human Rights in Iran, Ali Ahmadnia and Saeed Naghdi, activists active on Telegram, are among those arrested in the recent roundup. Information is not yet available on the other individuals detained.

On a separate matter in the ISNA interview, Motahhari also criticized the arrest of journalist Ehsan Mazandarani. According to Mazandarani’s brother-in-law, the Intelligence Organization of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) violently took Mazandarani into custody on March 11, striking and beating him.

Mazandarani, the former editor in chief of Reformist newspaper Farhikhtegan, had previously been arrested, in November 2015, and released from prison Feb. 11. When the agents sent to arrest Mazandarani were asked why they were doing so, they replied that he had been accidentially released prematurely. According to Mazandarani's brother-in-law, he has started a hunger strike to protest his rearrest.

Motahari said that he is requesting that Intelligence Minister Hojat al-Islam Mahmoud Alavi “satisfactorily explain” the Telegram arrests and identify which organization had made them. He added, “The only accountable institution that is named in the constitution is the Intelligence Ministry, and if others are interfering in their work, the Intelligence Ministry is still responsible.” Motahari said that if Alavi fails to satisfactorily respond to questions, impeachment proceedings would be pursued against him.

Motahari likely knows that the IRGC Intelligence Organization made the arrests. IRGC officials are appointed by the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, not Rouhani. Motahari cannot therefore summon IRGC officials to parliament to respond to questions about the nature of the arrests. Most important, he cannot threaten them with impeachment.

The statements by Motahari, however, are an indirect way of challenging the IRGC’s authority to make such politically charged arrests. The IRGC Intelligence Organization has been playing a larger role since around 2009 in detention of a political nature. It has characterized previous such arrests as efforts to prevent the soft “penetration” of enemy Western nations that it claims seek to influence domestic policies in Iran.

Join hundreds of Middle East professionals with Al-Monitor PRO.

Business and policy professionals use PRO to monitor the regional economy and improve their reports, memos and presentations. Try it for free and cancel anytime.

Already a Member? Sign in


The Middle East's Best Newsletters

Join over 50,000 readers who access our journalists dedicated newsletters, covering the top political, security, business and tech issues across the region each week.
Delivered straight to your inbox.


What's included:
Our Expertise

Free newsletters available:

  • The Takeaway & Week in Review
  • Middle East Minute (AM)
  • Daily Briefing (PM)
  • Business & Tech Briefing
  • Security Briefing
  • Gulf Briefing
  • Israel Briefing
  • Palestine Briefing
  • Turkey Briefing
  • Iraq Briefing

Premium Membership

Join the Middle East's most notable experts for premium memos, trend reports, live video Q&A, and intimate in-person events, each detailing exclusive insights on business and geopolitical trends shaping the region.

$25.00 / month
billed annually

Become Member Start with 1-week free trial
What's included:
Our Expertise

Memos - premium analytical writing: actionable insights on markets and geopolitics.

Live Video Q&A - Hear from our top journalists and regional experts.

Special Events - Intimate in-person events with business & political VIPs.

Trend Reports - Deep dive analysis on market updates.

We also offer team plans. Please send an email to and we'll onboard your team.

Already a Member? Sign in