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140 protestors released from a Tehran jail

Video by Richard TOMPSETT


Latest update : 2009-07-29

Iranian authorities have freed 140 people from a Tehran jail. The detainees had been arrested during massive protests after the contested June 12 presidential election. Iran's supreme leader earlier also ordered another prison to be closed.

AFP - Iranian authorities on Tuesday freed 140 people detained in street protests over last month's disputed election and the supreme leader ordered a jail closed amid opposition claims of prisoner abuse.

A lawmaker with parliament's judicial committee also disclosed that about 30 people had been killed in the unrest that erupted after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's re-election, up from previous official figures of 20.

But in a blow to the opposition, the authorities refused to issue a permit for a planned mourning ceremony for those slain during the worst crisis to rock Iran since the Islamic revolution three decades ago.

The post-election turmoil and the crackdown on the opposition has exposed deep rifts among the ruling elite and has led to political tensions that have weakened Ahmadinejad's standing even among his own hardline supporters.

Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ordered the closure of a jail holding protesters arrested during the massive demonstrations over the June 12 vote, which the opposition charges was rigged.

"The supreme leader has issued a strict order to ensure there is no injustice committed against anyone in the aftermath of the recent events," said the secretary of Iran's National Security Council, Saeed Jalili.

"As an example, he has ordered the closure of a detention centre which was not up to required standards," he said in a statement.

The head of Tehran prisons, Sohrab Soleimani, denied that two protesters had died from prison beatings, insisting they had been struck down by meningitis.

But opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, Ahmadinejad's closest election rival, said that if one of the protesters had died of meningitis, "how come his teeth were broken?"

The reformist Sarmayeh newspaper also reported that the life of Saeed Hajjarian, an advisor to former president Mohammad Khatami being detained in Tehran's notorious Evin prison, was in danger.

"He looked pale... very weak and seriously depressed... He had a foul body odour and said he had been kept in the sun as a pressure tactic," Hajjarian's wife Vajiheh Marsoosi was quoted as saying.

Iranian authorities on Tuesday freed 140 protestors detained in Evin prison, according to a member of a parliamentary panel who visited the detainees.

"We had an intensive meeting with Tehran prosecutor (Saeed Mortazavi) and 140 detainees of the recent events were freed," MP Kazem Jalali said in a statement to the ISNA news agency.

Around 200 people remain in detention, including 50 "politicians, members of anti-revolutionary groups and foreigners" who he said were suspected of masterminding riots.

Farhad Tajari, the deputy head of parliament's judicial commission said that Hajjarian would also be freed soon.

Security forces including police and the Islamic Basij militia cracked down on demonstrators as they poured on to the streets of Tehran and other cities to oppose Ahmadinejad's election victory.

Tajari said that "30 people at most" were killed in the violence.

But the interior ministry said it has denied a permit for a "silent" memorial ceremony on Thursday for the slain protesters called by Mousavi and another defeated election candidate Mehdi Karroubi.

"It is unprecedented for anyone to seeks permission for a memorial from the interior ministry unless they are pursuing a political aim," a ministry official said.




With Iran's political situation still volatile, MPs have drawn up a bill limiting the autonomy of four vice presidents after a row with Ahmadinejad over his choice of a first vice president, the Mehr news agency said.

Unlike ministers, Iran's vice presidents are not subject to a vote of confidence or impeachment by parliament.

The move came after a political crisis over Ahmadinejad's initial refusal to sack a controversial aide, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie, who he had appointed as first vice president despite strong opposition even from his own hardline camp.

Ahmadinejad budged only after Khamenei ordered him to fire Rahim Mashaie.

On Tuesday, 210 MPs also snubbed Ahmadinejad by praising intelligence minister Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejeie who was sacked by the president this week.

Iranian media said Ejeie was fired because he had "quarrelled" with Ahmadinejad at cabinet meeting over the delay in dismissing Rahim Mashaie.

But Ahmadinejad's office denied the reports as "baseless."


Date created : 2009-07-29