Families of Iranian detainees who died in prison demand punishment of former prosecutor

By Nasser Karimi, AP
Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Families of dead Iranian prisoners want justice

TEHRAN, Iran — The families of three opposition protesters who were tortured to death in prison last year demanded the former Tehran prosecutor be brought to trial and punished, Iranian media reports said Wednesday.

The three prisoners were among hundreds arrested during the mass street protests that erupted after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s disputed re-election in June 2009. They died the following month in Tehran’s Kahrizak prison.

One of the torture victims, 24-year-old Mohsen Rouhalamini, was the son of a prominent conservative figure, and the deaths sparked an outcry even among influential government supporters and figures in the clerical hierarchy.

After the outrage, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei intervened and ordered the immediate closure of the Kahrizak facility.

More than a year later, however, the victims’ families maintain that authorities have decided only to punish low-ranking staff while shielding senior level officials who they contend are most to blame.

“We demand the prosecution and punishment of those who ordered sending the prisoners” to Kahrizak prison, a statement from the families said, according to the semi-official Mehr news agency.

The other two prisoners were Amir Javadifar and Mohammad Kamrani.

In June, two prison officials were convicted of torturing and killing them and were sentenced to death.

As allowed under Iranian law, the families pardoned the two prison officials, saying they were just “puppets in the hands of unruly law breakers.”

“Putting responsibility on the shoulders of interrogators and police cannot nullify the responsibility of someone who ordered the victims sent to Kahrizak, as parliament officially reported,” the families said, referring to former Tehran prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi.

In January, a parliament investigation found Mortazavi responsible for the death of protesters in prison.

There has been no sign, however, of any steps to punish Mortazavi or place him under criminal investigation. Since leaving his post as prosecutor he has become the head of a government body tasked with fighting the smuggling of goods.

Besides the two prison officials, nine other suspects were found guilty in the case and sentenced to prison terms and flogging. Authorities say dozens more are awaiting trial.

In August, Iran suspended three senior judiciary officials over the case, which could pave the way for their trial as well. The officials’ names were not released.

Anger over the abuse of detainees in custody went far beyond the Iran’s pro-reform opposition, as prominent conservatives in the clerical establishment condemned the mistreatment. Authorities initially denied the Kahrizak abuse claims, accusing the opposition of running a campaign of lies against the government.

But Khamenei, who has final say on all state matters, ordered the prison’s closure and judicial authorities eventually acknowledged jailers beat the three to death.

Hundreds of protesters and opposition activists were arrested in the government crackdown after the June 2009 vote, which the opposition says Ahmadinejad won through massive vote fraud.

The opposition says more than 80 protesters were killed in the crackdown, but the government has confirmed around 30 deaths.

More than 100 protesters, activists and pro-reform opposition figures have been put on trial, accused of fueling the protests and being part of a plot to overthrow the government. Among the opposition figures on trial, 10 have received death sentences, which are under appeal.

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