Iran ex-prosecutor denies role in torture deaths

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TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Tehran’s former chief prosecutor on Sunday rejected a parliamentary report blaming him in part for the torture and deaths of at least three anti-government protesters during the turmoil after June’s disputed presidential election.

Saeed Mortazavi said the parliamentary report contained “mistakes and deficiencies” and let the media implicate him in the case. He also accused lawmakers of showing sympathy for a “bunch of hooligans.”

After months of denials, Iran’s judiciary acknowledged last month that three detainees swept up in the crackdown on opposition supporters after the election 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 that led the crackdown.

Iran’s judiciary has charged 12 officials at Kahrizak prison — a facility on Tehran’s outskirts where much of the prisoner abuse took place — but has not charged Mortazavi.

As Tehran city prosecutor, Mortazavi was responsible for monitoring Kahrizak prison and reportedly led interrogations of dozens of pro-reform activists arrested and prosecuted after the June vote.

The parliamentary report made public last week said Mortazavi ordered that detained protesters be taken to Kahrizak, which government officials have said was only meant for dangerous criminals and troublemakers. The parliamentary report found that protesters, including students, also were taken there.

The former prosecutor on Sunday denied issuing the order, saying other judiciary officials did so.

Mortazavi has claimed that the three detainees died from meningitis. However, judiciary officials and the parliamentary report concluded 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.”

Mortazavi, who now heads a government body tasked with fighting the smuggling of goods, is the highest-ranking official to be implicated. There is still no indication of whether he could be prosecuted.

In a letter addressed to parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani, Mortazavi accused lawmakers of showing sympathy for a “bunch of hooligans.”

“The (parliamentary) report … was ambiguous and contained mistakes that paved the way for propaganda misuse,” Mortazavi wrote.

He said lawmakers should support and defend “special judges who spared no efforts, at (this) time of sedition and conspiracy by moharebs (those corrupt on earth) and enemies of the sacred system of the Islamic republic, to foil these riots.” Mortazavi’s letter was reported by state media Sunday.

One of the detainees who died in custody was the son of Abdolhossein Rouhalamini, a senior 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. That came after reports of beatings and inhumane behavior emerged from there.

Mortazavi is detested by those pushing for social and political reforms in Iran. His critics dubbed him the “butcher of the press” and “torturer of Tehran” because he was behind the closure of more than 120 newspapers and the imprisonment of dozens of journalists and political activists over the past decade.