Iranian members of parliament (MPs) lifted a blanket of official denial on the country’s post-election upheaval on Sunday by blaming a senior regime insider for abuses that led to the deaths of at least three prisoners in a detention center.
In the first publicly documented admission that abuses occurred in the weeks after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s disputed re-election, the Majlis, Iran’s parliament, identified Saeed Mortazavi, Tehran’s former chief prosecutor, as the main culprit in the scandal over the Kahrizak facility.
A report read out to MPs said 147 prisoners had been held in a 70m² room for four days without proper ventilation, heating and food on Mortazavi’s orders. The prisoners were sent to Kahrizak after being arrested at a demonstration on 9 July, less than a month after Ahmadinejad’s victory.
The facility, which was intended only for violent criminals and drug traffickers, was closed on the orders of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, after it emerged that three inmates had died, including the son of a distinguished government scientist.
Sunday’s report dismissed a claim from Mortazavi that the prisoners had died from meningitis and acknowledged that they had been assaulted.
The deaths were caused by “limitation of space, poor sanitary conditions, inappropriate nutrition, heat, lack of ventilation and ... also as a result of physical attacks”, the report said.
“The detainees were kept for four days ... in [a 70m²] room without proper ventilation, suitable food and sanitary conditions and also in very hard, punitive conditions,” the report said.
Prisoners were also made to share accommodation with inmates who had been convicted of violent and drug-related crimes.
Conditions at Kahrizak became a scandal after the deaths of Mohsen Ruholamini — whose father headed Iran’s Louis Pasteur Institute — and two other prisoners, Muhammad Kamrani and Amir Javadifar.
Opposition Web sites reported that Khamenei acted after a pro-regime photographer, Saeed Sadaghi, told him that he had been raped in Kahrizak after being swept up in the mass arrests. The Majlis’s report “strongly rejected” that rape or sexual assault had taken place.
The report was commissioned by a parliamentary committee set up by Speaker Ali Larijani, a rival of Ahmadinejad.
Mortazavi, who is believed to have lobbied MPs not to implicate him, originally said the prisoners had died of meningitis and said inoculation kits had been sent to detention centers to stop the condition from spreading. He also claimed Kahrizak did not fall under his jurisdiction and that he only sent detainees there because of insufficient space at Evin prison, Tehran’s main penal facility.
But the meningitis claim was dismissed by an examining doctor, Ramin Pourandarjani, who refused to certify it as the cause of death until he was arrested and forced to do so.
Pourandarjani himself died mysteriously in November after being charged with failing to properly treat the prisoners. A postmortem said he died after eating a poisoned salad.
The report rejected Mortazavi’s disclaimers of responsibility and cited a letter from the office of the former judiciary chief, Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, less than two years ago specifically giving him jurisdiction.
“The denial of some judiciary officials of responsibility are by no means acceptable and — more than any other branch — it is the judiciary which should be accountable for the shortcomings and weaknesses of this center,” the report said.