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Iran: Vindication for Ebtehaj

2 minute read

Iran’s government was plainly playing politics when it arrested peppery Abol Hassan Ebtehaj in 1961 and charged him vaguely with extravagance and misuse of government funds. For years, he had been the highly successful head of the Plan Organization, under which most of Iran’s biggest economic development projects had been accomplished. He had also been a prosperous banker known widely for his scrupulous business methods.

The only thing Ebtehaj lacked, in fact, was control over his angry tongue.

He had bitter, controversial views on almost everything; irascibly, he lashed out in speeches at corruption in the government, dared even to criticize the coterie of advisers around Shah Mo hammed Reza Pahlevi. Once he told the Shah how lucky the royal palace was to have a man like Ebtehaj around, a remark not calculated to amuse the sensitive monarch.

What happened after that has never been very clear, but Ebtehaj found himself clapped into jail for seven months, and only after protests from his friends abroad was he released on a bond. It was some bond: a whopping $140 million signed guarantee that Ebtehaj would not skip Teheran. Most of the collateral was contributed by sympathetic Iranians in the form of land deeds, securities and cash pledges.

Court processes dragged on interminably, though virtually all government officials were by then privately admitting that the charges against Ebtehaj were baseless. Recently, he was offered an important advisory post with the World Bank, and it was this perhaps that stirred action in the prosecutor’s office. Last week, a government lawyer produced a detailed decision. Ebtehaj, 64, could breathe easily. All the charges were “without foundation,” said the prosecutor, and the case was closed.

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