Pro-Reform Party Blames Iran's President for Abuse

August 12, 2009 - 11:02 AM
A key pro-reform political party blamed Iran's president and interior minister Wednesday for the abuse and death of protesters detained after the disputed presidential election at a facility the group likened to Iraq's notorious Abu Ghraib prison.
Tehran, Iran (AP) - A key pro-reform political party blamed Iran's president and interior minister Wednesday for the abuse and death of protesters detained after the disputed presidential election at a facility the group likened to Iraq's notorious Abu Ghraib prison.
 
Reformists have seized on the mistreatment of detainees at Kahrizak prison as a way to keep pressure on President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who they claim stole the June 12 election through massive fraud. Influential conservatives have also criticized the abuse at Kahrizak and the three deaths known to have taken place there.
 
Senior police and judiciary officials have tried to calm public outrage by acknowledging that some detainees were abused in prison and calling for those responsible to be punished.
 
The Islamic Revolution Mujahedeen Organization said Wednesday that Ahmadinejad and Interior Minister Sadeq Mahsouli were to blame for the "crimes committed at Abu Ghraib Kahrizak."
 
"These two people are responsible for all violations, illegal behavior and appalling treatment of detainees at Kahrizak prison," the reformist party said in a statement posted on its Web site.
 
The reference to Abu Ghraib is particularly inflammatory because the Muslim world was outraged by pictures that surfaced in 2004 of U.S. military personnel torturing Iraqi detainees at the prison outside of Baghdad.
 
Iran's parliament speaker, Ali Larijani, sought to defuse some of the controversy Wednesday by denying allegations made by a defeated reformist presidential candidate that protesters detained at Kahrizak were raped by their jailers.
 
"The issue of detainees being sexually abused is a lie," Larijani told an open session of parliament, according to Iran's official news agency IRNA. "On the basis of precise and comprehensive investigations conducted about the detainees at Kahrizak and Evin prisons, no cases of rape and sexual abuse were found."
 
Mahdi Karroubi said Sunday he has received reports from former military commanders and other senior officials that male and female prisoners were savagely raped by their jailers to the point of physical and mental damage. Larijani's swift denial is likely an effort by hard-liners to minimize fallout from the allegations.
 
Hossein Shariatmadari, an aide to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and editor of the hard-line Kayhan newspaper, demanded in an editorial published Wednesday before Larijani's announcement that Karroubi be put on trial for making the allegations.
 
The government is already holding a trial for some 100 politicians, journalists and activists who have been accused of involvement in an alleged revolution to overthrow the Islamic leadership following the presidential election. The opposition has called the trial a sham.
 
One of those on trial is Clotilde Reiss, a French academic who a top Iranian prosecutor suggested Wednesday could be released on bail. French officials have been pushing for Reiss' release and said Tuesday that Iran freed local French Embassy employee Nazak Afshar, who still faces trial.
 
Tehran prosecutor, Saeed Mortazavi, said Reiss would not be allowed to leave Iran even if she was released on bail, according to the semi-official Fars news agency.
 
The official IRNA news agency quoted an "informed political source" Wednesday as saying the French Embassy in Tehran sent a note to the judiciary agreeing to deposit bail in order to win Reiss' freedom.
 
The French Foreign Ministry declined to comment on the report.
 
Hundreds have been arrested since the presidential election as security forces crushed massive protests by supporters of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, who claims he was the true winner in the vote. The arrests were largely carried out by the Revolutionary Guard and its paramilitary militia, the Basij.
 
Iran has confirmed at least 30 people have died in the country's worst unrest since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, but the opposition said Tuesday that at least 69 people have died in two months of postelection turmoil based on accounts from the victims' families.
 
Ali Reza Beheshti, a top aide to Mousavi, said the opposition submitted names of 69 killed and some 220 detainees to parliament.