Taking the cue from the Supreme Leader, most officials are finally calling for punishment of all those responsible for the deadly crash of a building in Iran.
In a message to officials Thursday, Khamenei ordered authorities to pursue the culprits and to impose “exemplary punishment” on them.
But the incident has already led to renewal of anti-government protests this week. Social media users Friday evening reported large protest rallies in Ahvaz, capital of Khuzestan, Shahin Shahr, a city in the central Esfahan Province where many Khuzestani refugees of the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988) still live, and the port city of Mahshahr in Hormozgan Province. They have also reported continued disruption in access to the internet.
Iran International has acquired two documents that suggest a connection between the owner of the building Hossein Abdolbaghi and Mowud Shamkhani, son of the secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani, and other influential local officials who may have used their influence to help Abdolbaghi participate in large municipality-funded projects.
Ali Shamkhani (R) and his son who helped the owner of a collapsed building
Chief of the operations on the ground, Ghodratollah Mohammadi, Friday evening said two more bodies had been recovered from the debris bringing the death toll to 26 and warned about the collapse of the second tower of the ten-story Metropol twin towers.
Many in Khuzestan and other areas of the country are also angry that it took Khamenei three days to show any reaction to the tragedy and at the government for not declaring a day or days of public mourning.
Thousands held anti-government protests Thursday in Abadan and some other cities chanting slogans against Khamenei such as “Death to Khamenei”, “Shame on You Khamenei, Leave the Country Alone”, and “Khamenei Is a Murderer, His Rule Is Illegitimate”.
Protesters hold the Supreme Leader responsible for mismanagement of the country and the corruption which allows well-connected individuals such as Abdolbaghi to bypass regulations and put people’s lives in danger.
A large crowd protesting in Abadan. May 25, 2022
Vice President Mohammad Mokhber who visited the site Friday morning alleged that there has been “extensive corruption” involving the owner, contractor, and regulatory bodies that issued the construction permits. He has warned that the owner of Metropol twin towers had constructed several more buildings in Abadan and the nearby Khorramshahr port city which should be investigated for other possible regulatory breaches and imminent danger to the public.
The governor of Khuzestan, Sadegh Khalilian, has confirmed that the building was originally planned to have six stories, but five more stories were added in two separate stages, apparently with the approval of municipality authorities, in breach of building codes.
Many high-level officials, including state-appointed Friday imams, are now urging hard punishment for the tragedy. The Imam of Khorramshahr, Mohammad-Javad Adelpour, urged authorities to be accountable to people and demanded the punishment of all those responsible including officials of the municipality and the provincial governor’s office.
Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi who also visited the site Friday morning, had called the collapse of Metropol building a “massive crime” a day earlier and said the judiciary will investigate it thoroughly.
Chief Justice Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejei on Friday promised investigation and punishment of all culprits “even if they are from the judiciary itself” to prevent such tragedies from happening again.
But promises of investigation and punishment of culprits are far from convincing to many who are highly skeptical of authorities' claim that Abdolbaghi died in the collapse.