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Iran Protests: Reports of Detainees Dying in Custody

The first confirmed the death of a detainee came when unnamed security officials announced that he had committed suicide. Now, alarming reports say that more detained protesters have died while in custody, including a prominent human rights defender, putting the total number at five.

Nasrin Sotoudeh, a prominent human rights lawyer, said, “I spoke to a prisoner in Evin prison and I was told that three detainees had lost their lives,” Sotoudeh said. “When authorities resort to mass arrests, they cannot claim to protect their rights. It is not possible in such a situation for the judicial process to take its due course.” Sotoudeh told media that according to information she has, authorities claim that all three were cases of suicide.

Sotoudeh was particularly worried about the use of unofficial detention centers. During the protests of 2009 that followed Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s disputed re-election as president, one such detention centre, Kahrizak, drew nationwide attention after it emerged that a number of protesters had been sexually assaulted, tortured and killed in custody.

Reformist politicians, including the outspoken MP Mahmoud Sadeghi, have warned of a repeat of the scandal. “I warn the president, intelligence and judicial officials against the repeat of a second Kahrizak,” he tweeted. Sadeghi, a reformist member of parliament, announced that 3,700 people have been arrested during the protests. Previously, authorities had announced the arrests of 1,700 individuals.

On Tuesday morning, Human Rights Campaign announced the names of two more detainees who died in provinces; Vahid Heydari in Arak and Mohsen Adeli in Dezful. However, the media office of Iran’s prisons’ agency say that they have no reports about a person named Mohsen Adeli having died in custody. The Tehran Province prosecutor has admiited that Heydari died in Arak, but insists that he committed suicide.

Nassim Papayianni, an Amnesty International researcher on Iran, said its investigations showed “time and time again just how inhumane prison conditions are in Iran, with overcrowding, poor ventilation and the ever-present threat of torture.” He added,
“We’re also concerned that the Iranian authorities are denying the family members of those arrested information about the fate and whereabouts of their loved ones. The authorities must end this wall of silence and provide family members information on those detained.”