Tehran’s outspoken reformist MP, Mahmoud Sadeghi has turned the case of the Supreme Leader’s favorite Quran reciter into talk of the town again.
The Quran reciter, Saeed Toosi, 47, is accused of sexually abusing at least 23 of his nine to twelve-year old male Quran students.
Last year, the alleged victims and their families came forward saying that their failure to get justice through legal channels left them no option other than publicly shed light on the case by speaking to VOA’s Persian Service, Radio Farda and the BBC Persian.
Immediately after the interviews were aired, the Quran reciter issued a statement and categorically dismissed the allegations as false and unfounded.
One of the alleged victims described to the BBC an assault which he said took place in a public bath house when he was only twelve years old.
"I was so shocked I couldn't understand what was going on," he said. "I was so afraid to say anything because of the shame it would bring upon my name, but then I found out that there were so many other cases among his students. So, I broke my silence."
As the scandal unfolded, it came to light that Toosi was tried for child abuse and convicted by a court in 2012, without publicity. As the case went to an appeals court, Judiciary officials stepped in and closed the case in 2013, leaving the alleged victims with no recourse but to go public in 2016.
After the scandal came to light, the judiciary’s spokesman, Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei announced that the evidence for investigating Toosi’s case was “insufficient”.
After months of claims and counterclaims, the shocking story of Toosi died down.
As a rule, talking about rape and sexual harassment in Iran is taboo.
Nevertheless, Sadeghi has brought it up again by publishing parliament correspondence on the case with the judiciary.
A copy of the correspondence published on Sadeghi’s Twitter account, refers to parliament’s insistence on Toosi’s legal case to be clarified.
While referring to Michael Fallon, UK’s disgraced defense minister who recently resigned after being accused of sexual harassment, Sadeghi, implicitly mentions Toosi’s legal case in a sarcastic tweet. “Here, [in the Islamic Republic] they shelve the legal case of a voice trainer at the Court of Appeal, after his conviction by the Primary Court”.
Sadeghi has also published a copy of the letter signed by the parliament’s Principle 90 addressed to the head of the judiciary, stating that Toosi was convicted for sexual abuse in 2012 but, the “decision was overruled” by an “interpretation” presented by Ali Khalafi, a judiciary consultant and Tehran’s Prosecutor-General Abbas Ja’fari Dolatabadi, in 2013.
Families of the alleged victims kept complaining to officials but their pleas fell on deaf ears at the Judiciary and they decided to go public in 2016.
Nevertheless, the head of the judiciary, ayatollah Sadiq Amoli Larijani dismissed allegations against Toosi as “mere lies”, “weird” and “unheard of before”, in October 2016.
Sadiq Amoli larijani went further and threatened the complainants by legally being sued for “cooperating with hostile media” and being a “culprit, assisting a crime”.
The Judiciary spokesman, Ejei said in October 2016 that Toosi had been investigated for "encouraging" moral corruption. In the meantime, he confirmed that a court had decided Toosi would not face prosecution for "acting" against public morals.
The judiciary’s spokesman also said a "religiously faithful and experienced" judge was being consulted and added that the case was being reviewed with "sensitivity."
"Some of the charges are difficult to prove. It is possible that the complainants are right, but it is difficult to prove," Ejei told reporters in October 2016.
"We've always had such cases, before the [1979 Islamic] revolution and after," he added.
One of the complainants cited in a report published by the Persian service of the BBC claimed that Toosi raped him twice, "five or six years ago,"
Nevertheless, the Islamic Republic’s parliament still insists that Toosi has legally been convicted and should be punished according to the law.
Toosi, is a close ally and friend of the Supreme Leader and other political and religious leaders of the regime.
Allegedly, the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei deeply enjoys Toosi’s Quran recitations.
Moreover, Mr. Toosi is a member of the Supreme Council of the Quran.
Ayatollah Khamenei has reportedly called his favorite Quran reciter a “model to be followed”.
Furthermore, Toosi has been awarded many local and international top prizes for his performance as a Quran reciter.