Tuesday, 4 December 2012

The Latest from Iran (4 December): Regime Concern over Political Prisoners?

Nasrin Sotoudeh0650 GMT: It would be an exaggeration to say that the regime is reconsidering its detention of hundreds of political prisoners since the disputed 2009 Presidential election, but two incidents this week point to a bit of concern about individual cases that might grab public attention.

On Monday, Iran Prosecutor General Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei told a press conference that blogger Sattar Beheshti, who died during interrogation in prison last month, was beaten.

After initial denials that Beheshti had suffered any injury, regime officials have been edging towards the admission over the last three weeks. They initially acknowledged that the blogger, seized on 30 October and dead four days later, had bruises in five places on his body. Last week, the acknowedgement that he was beaten emerged, with the sacking of Tehran's head of cyber-police for negligence and failure to control staff.

However, Ejei still held the line that the beatings were not the cause of death. He repeated the claim, set out by the Tehran Prosecutor General in mid-November, that Behesthi probably succumbed to "physical or psychological shock". 

Even so, the public statements by Iranian officials are the first acceptance of abuse of detainees since the 2009 Kahrizak case, in which at least three post-election protesters --- including the son of a top conservative political activist --- were killed.

Even more surprising in the last 48 hours has been the recognition of the case of imprisoned lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, who is now on Day 49 of her hunger strike over her treatment. After an MP said for the first time this weekend that there might be a need for investigation, reports circulated Monday that legislators would visit Evin Prison.

Sotoudeh, a prominent defender of activists in court, was arrested in September 2010 and eventually sentenced to six years in prison and a 10-year ban on practice of law. Her husband, Reza Khandan, said this weekend that her health is rapidly deteriorating.

from EA WorldView: EA Iran

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