Iran parliament sacks minister over fake degree

Iran's parliament on Tuesday voted to sack Interior Minister Ali Kordan for lying about his credentials and presenting a fake degree from a prestigious British university.

Iran's parliament has voted to sack Interior Minister Ali Kordan, seen here addressing lawmakers before the vote, for lying about his credentials and presenting a fake degree from Oxford University.(AFP/Behrouz Mehri)

The scandal has been a major embarrassment to the government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has defended Kordan throughout the controversy and who refused to appear in parliament for the impeachment.

Parliament speaker Ali Larijani said 188 MPs among the 247 present voted to impeach Kordan while 45 lawmakers were against the motion and 14 abstained.

"The impeachment was approved by parliament and he cannot be interior minister from now on," Larijani said in a speech carried live on state radio.

It was the 10th change in the 21-strong cabinet of Ahmadinejad, who had described Kordan as a "victim" and insisted he be allowed to remain in the job.

Under Iran's constitution the entire cabinet would have to be submitted to a new vote of confidence if half the ministers change.

Kordan had been under pressure to quit the cabinet post he took up just three months ago after Oxford University denied awarding him any qualification, as he had claimed.

"A person who has to be entrusted with the country's security has mocked parliament's trust," MP Ebrahim Nekunam told the assembly.

Nekunam said that not only does Kordan -- who worked as a university law professor -- not possess a PhD in law from Oxford as he claimed, but also that he "does not have a master's or bachelor's degree".

Kordan accused the media of launching a smear campaign against him by portraying him as a "terrorist" and "violence-seeking person", naming Israeli radio and unnamed Persian-speaking media based outside Iran.

He had shown the purported degree to MPs in a controversial vote of confidence on August 5 but he told parliament on Tuesday he would not have presented the degree if he had doubted its validity.

But MP Bijan Nobaveh accused him of "still lying".

He said MPs sought to "restore the reputation" of the Islamic system by the impeachment as Kordan "had reduced public faith and confidence in the system".

Kordan replaced Ahmadinejad critic Mostafa Pour Mohammadi in the key post in one of the many cabinet reshuffles since the president took office in 2005.

The interior ministry is charged with maintaining domestic security as well as holding elections, appointing provincial governors and issuing permits for political parties and non-governmental organisations.

A veteran manager in the Islamic republic, Kordan served for years as the administrative and financial vice president of Iran state television when it was headed by current parliament speaker Ali Larijani.

He has also served in Iran's oil ministry.

Kordan had asserted the degree was issued for his "managerial and executive experience and for submitting a thesis to Oxford University via a person who had opened an affiliate office in Tehran in English-language affairs."

He later said he had approached Oxford University after MPs cast doubt on his degree, but "to my utter disbelief, the university did not confirm (the degree) when my representative went there."

He said he had pressed charges against the person who claimed to represent Oxford University in Tehran as soon as he realised his degree was fake.

Source: AFP

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