Recent news from the BBC on Iranian prisoners

From August 13th: Iran inmates ‘tortured to death’

Photo by A. Oleinik
From Chicago's June 24th candlelight vigil for Iran's fallen (Photo by A. Oleinik)

From August 11th: Iran admits 4,000 June detentions

From August 10th: Probe urged into Iran jail ‘rape’

From August 6th: Iranian prisoner abuse punished

TEXT OF STORIES republished below

August 13, 2009: Iran inmates ‘tortured to death’

Iran’s defeated opposition presidential candidate has said that some protesters held after last month’s disputed poll were tortured to death in prison.

The claim by Mehdi Karroubi comes days after he said a number of prisoners, both male and female, had been raped.

Officials deny the rape claims, but admit that abuses have taken place.

The BBC’s Jon Leyne says the opposition uses the issue to maintain political pressure without directly questioning Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s poll victory.

On Thursday, Mr Karroubi alleged that a number of detainees had been tortured to death.

“Some young people are beaten to death just for chanting slogans in [post-election] protests,” his website said.

Mr Karroubi also called for the formation of an independent committee to review his evidence in “a calm atmosphere”.

On Sunday, the defeated presidential candidate claimed that some opposition protesters were raped in detention.

The claim was supported by a number of human rights groups but quickly dismissed as “totally baseless” by the speaker of Iran’s parliament, Ali Larijani.

“Based on parliament’s investigations, detainees have not been raped or sexually abused in Iran’s Kahrizak and Evin prisons,” said.

Mass protests

The conditions under which detained protesters have been held has been controversial, with damaging claims forcing authorities to act.

The Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamanei, closed the notorious Kahrizak detention centre saying it had failed to “preserve the detainees’ rights”.

Police officials have admitted that some of those held since June might have been tortured.

Both the Iranian parliament and judiciary have established committees to investigate the post-election unrest and the government’s response.

BBC Tehran correspondent Jon Leyne says the issue of prison abuse is both a real concern in itself and also has become a way of criticising the government of President Ahmadinejad without directly challenging the legitimacy of his re-election.

On Tuesday, Iran’s authorities said 4,000 people had been detained during the mass protests that broke out in the wake of the 12 June presidential poll, which the opposition says was rigged.

The number was much higher than previous figures, although the authorities said 3,700 of them had been released within a few days of arrest.

Opposition leaders say 69 protesters died in the post-election violence – more than double the official figure of about 30 fatalities.

Trials criticised

Iran is currently trying more than 100 detainees over their alleged involvement in the protests.

The trials – of leading opposition figures, activists, journalists, lawyers, workers at foreign embassies and two people with foreign nationalities – have been criticised by several foreign powers, opposition groups and human rights campaigners.

But authorities insist their legal proceedings are completely legitimate and conform to international standards of justice.

Official election results awarded incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a sweeping victory in the polls.

He is in the process of selecting a cabinet, which will be submitted to parliamentary approval next week.

Foreign media, including the BBC, have been restricted in their coverage of Iran in the wake of the election protests.

August 11, 2009: Iran admits 4,000 June detentions

Authorities in Iran say 4,000 people were detained in protests that followed June’s disputed presidential election – many more than previously stated.

A spokesman for the judiciary, Ali Reza Jamshidi, said about 3,700 had been freed within a week, but that those involved in riots were in detention.

An opposition figure has also claimed at least 69 people were killed in the violence following the 12 June poll.

It is more than double the number the government admits died.

Iran is currently trying more than 100 detainees over their alleged involvement in the protests.

The trials – of leading opposition figures, activists, journalists, lawyers, workers at foreign embassies and two people with foreign nationalities – have been criticised by several foreign powers, opposition groups and human rights campaigners.

But authorities insist their legal proceedings are completely legitimate and conform to international standards of justice.

Figures increase

Speaking at a news conference, judiciary spokesman Mr Jamshidi admitted some 4,000 people were detained in June’s post-election street protests.

But he said only 300 – who had been “involved in the riots” – were held for longer than a few days.

Supporters of the protesters had previously challenged government figures on the numbers of those detained, suggesting it could be in the thousands.

The figure for those killed when June’s street protests turned bloody – in violence the government blamed on “thugs” but which protesters blamed on security services – has also never been confirmed.

The police put it at about 20, but official figures later suggested about 30 had died.

Now Alireza Hosseini Beheshti – an ally of defeated election candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi – has said testimony from bereaved families suggests at least 69 people were killed.

He told AP news agency that the number was still rising and included victims from the capital, Tehran, and the rest of the country.

Offer to France

Among those on trial over the protests are an Iranian who worked at the UK embassy in Tehran, a French-Iranian who worked at the French embassy, and a French national – charged with crimes including spying and plotting to overthrow the government.

On Tuesday, French embassy staffer Nazak Afshar was released from the Tehran prison where she was being held, but remains on trial, French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced.

Mr Sarkozy thanked the EU and “other friendly states, such as Syria” for help in her release.

He called for Clotilde Reiss, a French university teaching assistant who is also in prison, to be released without delay.

Iran offered to allow her to live in the French embassy in Tehran for the duration of the trial, French news agency AFP quoted Iran’s ambassador in Paris as saying.

There had been no reported response from French authorities, the ambassador was quoted by AFP as saying.

But the French foreign ministry later dismissed his claim, saying Iran had been notified weeks ago that the French embassy was willing to take in Ms Reiss, according to AFP.

Febrile

France has denounced the proceedings against Ms Reiss, but the action was defended by Hassan Qashqavi, a spokesman for Iran’s foreign ministry.

“There was no ambiguity in the trial procedures – and there was no pressure to get confessions from the people on trial,” he said on Monday.

Reports speak of a febrile atmosphere in Iranian political circles, as the leadership continues to face overt criticism over its handling of the post-election crisis.

One focus of controversy has been the conditions under which remaining the detainees have been held, with damaging claims forcing authorities to act.

The Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamanei, closed the notorious Kahrizak detention centre over allegations of abuse, and both the Iranian parliament and judiciary have established committees to investigate the post-election unrest and the government’s response.

Official election results awarded incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a sweeping victory in the polls.

He is in the process of selecting a cabinet which will be submitted to parliamentary approval next week.

August 10, 2009: Probe urged into Iran jail ‘rape’

A defeated opposition candidate in Iran’s presidential election has called for an investigation into allegations some protesters were raped in prison.

In a letter to former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Mehdi Karroubi said senior officials had informed him of the “shameful behaviour” taking place.

Mr Karroubi wrote that both male and female detainees had been raped, with some suffering serious injuries.

He asked Mr Rafsanjani to consult the Supreme Leader about the allegations.

About 200 people arrested during the mass protests sparked by June’s disputed election, which saw President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad re-elected by a wide margin, are still being detained.

‘Brutality’

In the letter addressed to Mr Rafsanjani in his capacity as head of the Assembly of Experts, Mr Karroubi demanded an investigation into allegations that several detainees had been sexually assaulted.

“Some of those arrested [as a result] of the unrest claim that detained girls have been sexually assaulted with… brutality,” he wrote.

“The young men in detention were also sexually assaulted in such a way that some are now suffering from depression and other physical and psychological problems, and are incapable of even leaving their homes,” he added.

Mr Karroubi said that the people who had told him about the allegations of sexual assault held “sensitive positions”.

“Even if one account is true, it would be a tragedy for the Islamic Republic… and it would whitewash the sins of many dictatorships, including that of the deposed Shah,” he added.

On Thursday, police confirmed serious rights violations had taken place at the Kahrizak detention centre, where most of those arrested at the protests were sent.

The head of Kahrizak was sacked and jailed on Sunday along with three of his guards, who were found to have beaten detainees.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ordered the closure of the centre in July, because it had failed to “preserve the rights of detainees”. Police officials have admitted that some of those held since June might have been tortured.

Earlier on Sunday, a senior commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps said that Mr Karroubi, and the other main defeated opposition presidential candidate, Mir Hossein Mousavi, should be tried for inciting unrest after the election.

“If Mousavi, Karroubi and [former president Mohammad] Khatami are the main suspects behind the soft revolution in Iran, which they are, we expect the judiciary… to go after them, arrest them, put them on trial and punish them,” Yadollah Javan told the Irna news agency.

Foreign media, including the BBC, have been restricted in their coverage of Iran since the election protests turned into confrontations with the authorities in which at least 30 people died.

August 6, 2009: Iranian prisoner abuse punished

Iran has taken action against guards at a detention centre over the mistreatment of protesters arrested after June’s disputed elections.

Two officers have been punished for beating prisoners at the Kahrizak centre, which Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ordered closed in July.

Several prison officials were also sacked for allowing overcrowding.

In a separate move, the Tehran offices of the independent Association of Iranian Journalists have been closed.

The decision was taken by the Iranian judiciary.

The secretary of the association, Badrossadat Mofidi, said hardliners could have taken advantage of the current political situation to take action against the body.

The Brussels-based International Federation of Journalists called on the Iranian authorities to end what it called a campaign of intimidation of journalists.

It said 42 journalists were currently in detention in Iran, with three opposition journalists having been arrested this week.

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