A controversy about a lawmaker slapping a traffic cop last year has resurfaced in Iran amid public criticism of officials who feel immune from the law.
The lawmaker involved has criticized parliament speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf for retracting his support under public pressure.
Ali-Asghar Annabestani told Rouydad24 news website Wednesday Ghalibaf (Qalibaf) had acted from his “longing for presidency. "In January 2021, Annabestani was in a melee with a conscripted soldier, Abed Akbari, who was serving as a traffic cop in Tehran and stopped Annabestani’s car in a bus lane in a busy street.
The soldier took the matter to social media immediately, garnering backing from Twitterati and others, and later sued the lawmaker for slapping him. Although there was no conclusive footage, several witnesses backed Akbari’s account.
What was notable in the incident was the public's attitude of immediately believing the cop rather than the lawmaker. Many politicians seeing an opportunity to be on the popular side of an issue, demanded accountability from the lawmaker.
Annabestani first denied any altercation, and then admitted to "shoving" the warden after Akbari had insulted him. The parliament member made a public apology, but has denied there was any more to the incident.
Police spokesperson Mehdi Hajian said a few days after the fracas that the chief of law enforcement, Brigadier General Hossein Ashtari, had ordered the police’s legal department to defend the warden's rights, but Akbari later dropped his lawsuit, feeding speculation but not explaining why.
Ghalibaf revived the controversy Tuesday when asked about the case during a question-and-answer session with university students, when he backed Annabestani’s version of events.
The speaker noted it was better not to repeat “whatever we see” on social media. “Annabestani would have committed a crime if he had slapped the warden and should then have been punished," Ghalibaf noted. "He didn't slap the warden but shoved him."
The speaker's support first drew Annabestani’s praise and gratitude. But within hours Akbari took to an Instagram live session to suggest a court had accepted his claim that he had been slapped. He accused both the judiciary and parliament of protecting Annabestani.
After hearing this, Ghalibaf noted Annabestani had found guilty of "assault without causing bodily harm" and apologized in line with his “promise of honesty” to Iranians.
Ghalibaf’s shift was “hilarious,” Annabestani responded. “He has told me several times that he watched the traffic-camera footage of the incident released by the police and it did not look like slapping and showed shoving. Now, under media pressure, he is accusing me of lying."