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Iran Parliament Speaker Sues Three Journalists, Lawmaker For 'Libel'

IRAN -- Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf speaks after being elected as parliament speaker at the Iranian parliament in Tehran, May 28, 2020

Three journalists and a lawmaker who have publicly discussed bribery allegations against the newly elected Parliament Speaker Mohammad-Baqer Qalibaf are being sued by the Iranian Parliament for “libel,” an Iranian Parliament official said on Wednesday.

Alireza Sharifi, Director-General of the Parliament's Public Relations, wrote in a tweet that lawsuits have been filed "against those who assault [the Parliament with accusations].”

Sharifi’s tweet follows reports that Qalibaf has filed lawsuits against Mostafa Mir Salim, a representative of Tehran in the Parliament, as well as three journalists. Mir-Salim was also nominated for the position of the parliament speaker in June 2019, but lost to Qalibaf.

The three journalists being sued by Qalibaf are allegedly Yashar Soltani, Sadra Mohaqeq and Vahid Ashtari, with Ashtari confirming the reports in a tweet on Tuesday.

"Remaining silent about the assault on the Parliament is injustice against the people,” Sharifi tweeted, accompanied by the hashtag "end no cost libel," adding that he hoped the judiciary would not delay taking action against the culprits. “[The accusers] should not consider themselves immune from prosecution by wearing the mask of journalists, defenders of justice or lawmakers.”

Earlier this month, Mir-Salim provided the judiciary with evidence that implicated Qalibaf in an "astronomical bribery case" that has been debated since 2017.

Qalibaf, during his twelve-year tenure as the mayor of Tehran, allegedly paid 650 billion rials (about $25.5 million at the time) to former parliament members to drop their probe into a multimillion-dollar property fraud case.

Last week, Judiciary Spokesman Gholam-Hossein Esmaili confirmed that a former lawmaker had been arrested in connection with a massive corruption case, but did not disclose the name of the lawmaker or his role in the bribery case.

Qalibaf has so far preferred not to comment on the latest developments, though sympathetic media have intensified their attacks on Mir-Salim and the journalists who allegedly exposed Qalibaf's role in the case.