Ex-prosecutor blamed for 3 protester prison deaths

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TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — A parliamentary investigation made public on Sunday found the former Tehran prosecutor responsible for the deaths of at least three anti-government protesters imprisoned in the turmoil following Iran’s disputed June elections.

Saeed Mortazavi was the capital’s prosecutor responsible for Kahrizak prison at the time of the three prison deaths in July. Hundreds of protesters were detained amid massive street protests over an election the opposition claimed was fraudulent.

“The deaths of the three were the result of four days in custody suffering from beatings in a place without proper food, water or health conditions,” said Kazem Jalali, a lawmaker and spokesman for the investigation.

Jalali was reading from a report on the findings of the investigation in a parliament session broadcast live on state radio. The findings were first reported Wednesday by a conservative Web site.

Mortazavi led interrogations of dozens of reformists arrested and put on trial after the June vote, according to opposition Web sites and families of the detained activists. The report said Mortazavi claimed the three detainees had died from meningitis.

After months of denials, Iran’s hard-line judiciary acknowledged last month that the three were beaten to death by their jailers. That confirmed one of the opposition’s most devastating claims against authorities and the elite Revolutionary Guard forces, which led the crackdown on anti-government protests after the election.

One of the detainees who died in custody was the son of Abdolhossein Rouhalamini, a top aide to conservative presidential candidate Mohsen Rezaei. Rouhalamini’s death in July, two weeks after he was arrested, sparked anger even among government supporters.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say on all state matters, ordered the immediate closure of Kahrizak in July and Jalali said that came after reports of beating and inhumane behavior there.

After reports of torture and rape emerged in August, authorities vowed to punish those found guilty to control the damage. Mortazavi, who now heads a government body tasked with fighting smuggling of goods, is the highest ranking official to be implicated so far. But there was no immediate word on whether he would be prosecuted.

The report said the mistreatment of detainees discredited Iran’s clerical rulers, prompting international condemnation of the country.

The investigation found Mortazavi pushed for keeping the prisoners in Kahrizak, a detention camp, instead of the official Evin prison in Tehran even though Evin prison said at the time it had room for the imprisoned protesters.

Set up as a temporary detention facility, Kahrizak did not fall under the same type of regulations and supervision as official prisons such as Evin. There were no family visits, or facilities to have such visits, and the site was not originally intended for use as a prison.

Jalali said Kahrizak was designated for dangerous prisoners and in the past, police had objected sending other sorts of prisoners there.

“The officials in Kahrizak initially refused to receive prisoners but because the judicial official — Mortazavi — insisted, they were forced to admit” 147 prisoners in a 70-square-meter (750-square-foot) space, the report said.

Jalali said the investigation did not uncover any rape in prisons or abuse of protesters in other prisons. Earlier in summer, leading opposition figure Mahdi Karroubi alleged some detainees were raped in custody.

Anger over the abuse claims extended far beyond the reformist camp, with influential conservative figures in the clerical hierarchy condemning the mistreatment of detainees.

The opposition says more than 80 protesters have been killed in the postelection crackdown, but the government puts the number of confirmed dead at less than 40.