Tue, Aug 11, 2009 - Page 6 News List

Detainees were tortured: police chief

IRANIAN UNREST The head of Kahrizak prison has been sacked and jailed for ‘mistakes’ but government critics say the violence is continuing, especially rape

THE GUARDIAN AND AFP , LONDON AND TEHRAN

Iran’s police chief admitted on Sunday that protesters who were arrested after June’s disputed presidential election had been tortured while in custody in a prison in southwest Tehran. But he denied any of the detainees died as a result.

In remarks reported by state-run media, General Ismail Ahmadi Moghaddam said the chief of the Kahrizak detention center had been dismissed and jailed.

“Three policemen who beat detainees have been jailed as well,” the official IRNA news agency quoted Moghaddam as saying.

Human rights groups had previously identified at least three detainees whom they said had died after torture at Kahrizak, which was closed last month on the orders of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Moghaddam denied the abuses were responsible for any fatalities there, claiming an unspecified “viral illness” had caused the deaths.

He did not name those allegedly involved in the abuse of prisoners, or give details of the charges against them. But his admission has marked the second occasion in as many days that a senior official has accepted that some criticisms leveled at the regime are well founded, suggesting growing doubts and uncertainty within the embattled regime nearly two months after the poll.

On Saturday, Qorbanali Dori-Najafabadi, Iran’s prosecutor-general, conceded “mistakes” had led to “painful accidents which cannot be defended, and those who were involved should be punished.” He said the mistakes included “the Kahrizak incident,” an apparent reference to the deaths of detainees there.

Dori-Najafabadi indicated the judiciary had taken overall charge of the detainees and their trials away from the feared basiji militia and Revolutionary Guards. He said about 200 people were still being held and urged people not to be afraid to come forward if they had complaints.

“Maybe there were cases of torture in the early days after the election but we are willing to follow up any complaints or irregularities that have taken place,” he was quoted as saying.

Meanwhile, defeated presidential candidate Mehdi Karroubi claims that women and boys detained in the post-election have been brutally raped in custody.

“A number of detainees have said that some female detainees have been raped savagely. Young boys held in detention have also been savagely raped,” Karroubi said in a letter to former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.

“The young boys are suffering from depression and serious physical and mental damage since their rapes,” he said, urging a probe into the claims.

Karroubi made the allegations in a “confidential letter” delivered on July 29 to Rafsanjani in his capacity as head of the Assembly of Experts, the powerful body which selects the supreme leader and supervises his activities.

Karroubi, who came a distant fourth in the June 12 election that returned Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to power, has previously alleged that protesters were being abused and beaten in custody.

About 2,000 opposition supporters were arrested in the aftermath of Ahmadinejad’s disputed victory. Most have been released, but around 200 remain behind bars. At least 110 have also been put on trial.

Karroubi urged Rafsanjani to take up the issue with supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, saying the “clergy and the Islamic republic will be held responsible” for such acts.

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