Iran opposition rallies on complaints of torture, deaths in detention
Growing unease over conditions of detention for hundreds is helping opposition organize, and exposing some splits in Iran's conservative ranks.
After the son of a prominent Iranian politician died in police custody last week, 69 leading reformers sent an unusually harsh and direct letter to the nation’s clerical establishment, complaining of torture by the regime “reminiscent of the dark days of the Shah.”Skip to next paragraph
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The signatories of the July 25 letter included former President Mohammed Khatami, reformist cleric Mehdi Karoubi, and Mir Hossein Mousavi, the man whose supporters say had Iran’s June election stolen from him by hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
They warned of torture being used to extract false confessions from reformist activists, and said that they’d received “disturbing news in recent days about the physical and mental health of several of the detainees.” (A rough translation of the letter is available on Mr. Mousavi’s facebook page.)
Joe Stork, who covers Iran and other Middle Eastern countries for Human Rights Watch, says his group is certainly concerned about deaths in detention, but sees no evidence of a flood of such deaths.
However, despite government intimidation that has “left people frightened about communicating with groups like ours,” he says the scope of arbitrary detention in Iran now is a great worry. “
“There are lots of people who have been detained for many weeks now that have without access to lawyers or family, and what we’re hearing is rather alarming about their condition,’’ he says. “It’s hard to say anything for certain. There’s a real effort on the part of the government there to make sure that information doesn’t get out, in particular, complaints about detention and so forth.”
On Monday, Mr. Mousavi called for ongoing protests and continued to press for use of Tehran’s Grand Mosala, a sprawling public prayer location, this Thursday to commemorate the “martyrs” killed by pro-government security forces and militiamen in June.
The government has been reluctant to give such permission until now, well aware that mass mourning in Shiite Islam is a powerful tool of political mobilization. Thursday would mark the 40th day since 20 protesters were killed, an important milestone in the Shiite ritual mourning cycle.