Iran speaker rejects vote detainees' rape claims

Iran’s speaker of Parliament on Wednesday rejected as “baseless” an opposition leader’s accusation that moderates had been raped in jail following their detention in unrest linked to a disputed June presidential poll.

“Based on Parliament’s investigations, detainees have not been raped or sexually abused in Iran’s Kahrizak and Evin prisons. Such claims are totally baseless,” Iran’s state television quoted Ali Larijani as saying.

Defeated moderate candidate Mehdi Karoubi said on Sunday some protesters, both men and women, had been raped in prison.

Many of the post-election detainees were held in south Tehran’s Kahrizak prison, built to house people breaching vice laws. At least three people died in custody there and widespread anger erupted as reports of abuse in jail spread.

The abuse allegations, rejected also by Tehran’s police chief, have created a rift among hardline politicians, many of whom backed President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s re-election, followed by the worst unrest in Iran since its 1979 Islamic revolution.

A committee set up by Karoubi and another defeated candidate Mirhossein Mousavi to pursue the issue submitted a list of 69 people killed in protests to Parliament on Monday.
The list contradicted the official figure of 26 deaths.

Conservative defeated presidential candidate Mohsen Rezaie said officials in charge should be put on trial if abuse claims of detainees were proved.

“If ... reports about the mistreatment and abuses of detainees and protesters are proved, all officials in charge should at least be sacked and tried in court,” Rezaie was quoted by the semi-official ILNA news agency as saying on Wednesday.

“And a day of national mourning should be declared.”

Rights group Amnesty International urged Iran on Wednesday to allow international observers to monitor the trials of more than 100 people accused of involvement in protests following the presidential election.

“The trial now going on in Tehran appears to be nothing but a ‘show trial’ through which the supreme leader and those around him seek to de-legitimise recent mass and largely peaceful protests and convince a very sceptical world that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was re-elected fairly for a second term as president,” said Amnesty Secretary General Irene Khan.

Last month Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ordered the closure of the “sub-standard” detention centre at Kahrizak. Iranian authorities have acknowledged some protesters were tortured at Kahrizak and said its director had been jailed.

Larijani called on Karoubi to submit to parliament his evidence over his rape allegations. Parliament’s reformist minority also asked detainees to report “cases of abuse”, ILNA reported.

Rift among hardliners
The hardline Kayhan daily urged the judiciary to arrest Karoubi if his charges were proved to be wrong.

“If Karoubi can not prove the allegations then he should be punished without any consideration,” said Hossein Shariatmadari, chief editor of the daily, who is appointed by Khamenei.

The opposition says the poll was rigged, a charge denied by Iran’s authorities, including Khamenei, who has accused Western powers of fomenting the unrest.

Ahmadinejad, who was sworn in last week, must name a Cabinet and seek Parliament’s approval in what may be a stormy process.

Hardline politician Ahmad Tavakkoli said Ahmadinejad was to be blamed for any possible mistreatment in prisons, adding “If we suppress people we will be destroying the system with our own hands”.

“We should investigate crimes against detainees and the key responsibility is with two people the president and the judiciary chief,” said Tavakkoli, who supported Ahmadinejad’s first-term presidency, Iranian media reported.

Another hardline lawmaker criticised harsh methods used by security forces over the vote unrest, during which about 4 000 people were arrested. At least 200 people remain in jail, including senior moderate politicians, lawyers, journalists and activists.

“Some extreme measures were taken by security forces when dealing with protesters,” Ali Motahari told the Etemad-e Melli newspaper.—Reuters