TEHRAN, Iran – Tehran's police chief, who was in charge of fighting vice, has been taken to jail and his case is currently under investigation, a spokesman for Iran's judiciary said Tuesday.
But the spokesman, Ali Reza Jamshidi, refused to elaborate further about the case which has caught wide public attention in Iran, saying it is now in the "legal stage."
Jamshidi said he was not authorized to provide more information.
Local media have reported that the police chief, Gen. Reza Zarei, was taken to jail after he was caught last month with six nude women by a police raid on an underground local brothel. He was also forced to resign. Local Web sites have also extensively reported the case in recent weeks.
Officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media, have also confirmed the reported arrest circumstances.
Prostitution is illegal in Iran and even talking about sex is frowned upon by hard-line clerics ruling Iran. The order to raid the alleged brothel was reportedly given directly by Iran's Judiciary Chief Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi.
Zarei was in charge of a program to clean cities from corruption and in recent months had reported arrests of young men and women for illicit relationship or not respecting the Islamic dress code.
State media in recent weeks reported Zarei's replacement but made no mention of his arrest or the reasons that led to his detention since such issues are considered a taboo in Iran.
Iran's strict Islamic rules allow little socializing between the sexes, and young Iranians have been jailed and flogged for dancing together at birthday parties.
For years, the hard-line clergy that has ruled Iran since the 1979 Islamic revolution painted a rosy picture of the Iranian society, never admitting to vices such as prostitution, which under Iranian law could be punishable by death.
But in the past decade, authorities have acknowledged that prostitution was a fact and is even spreading in Iran. Prostitutes are becoming more and more visible on the streets, mainly due to economic hardships.
The rise in prostitution has led to suggestions that brothels be legalized and monitored. Some Iranians say brothels could be run according to Islamic rules, presumably under a Shiite Muslim tradition in which men and women are allowed to have "temporary marriages" — sometimes less than 24 hours.
Most clerics, though, scoff at the idea that sex outside marriage can ever be condoned by Islam. After the 1979 revolution, clerics destroyed brothels as un-Islamic and corrupting.