Thousands arrested following Iran protests; Death in prison gives rise to fears of torture

by WorldTribune Staff, January 9, 2018

About 3,700 people have been arrested in connection to anti-government protests in Iran, a reformist lawmaker said.

The number of arrests cited by Mahmud Sadeghi on Jan. 9 is far higher than figures announced by authorities.

Widespread anti-government protests began in Iran on Dec. 28.

At least 22 people have been killed as a result of the unrest and government crackdowns surrounding the protests.

Sadeghi also noted that a 22-year-old protester has died in custody, intensifying fears of a repeat of the prisoner abuse that followed similar protests in 2009.

Sadeghi, who said he was told the detainee, identified as Sina Ghanbari, committed suicide, has called for an investigation into the man’s death.

No matter the cause of Ghanbari’s death, it reflects poor conditions inside the prison, says Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran.

“The prison guards and authorities are responsible for the lives of prisoners while in custody, and it’s devastating to hear that once again Iranian authorities have failed to protect lives,” Ghaemi told Voice of America.

Iranian prison guards routinely use intimidation, including physical and psychological pressure, on detainees, according to Ghaemi. “For some people, it’s unbearable and they reach a point they can’t endure,” he said.

There were widespread reports of torture and murder in Iranian jails following the violent crackdown on the 2009 protests over a disputed presidential election. Iranian officials later acknowledged three detainees were beaten to death.

Meanwhile, in a tweet, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei repeated accusations that foreign countries including the United States and its allies had instigated the protests.

He said that “the scheme was formed” by the United States and Israel and “the money came from a wealthy government” near the Persian Gulf, an apparent reference to Saudi Arabia.

“Once again, the nation tells the U.S., Britain, and those who seek to overthrow the Islamic Republic of Iran from abroad that ‘you’ve failed, and you will fail in the future, too,’ ” Khamenei said in a message on his official Twitter account on Jan. 9.

Khamenei also claimed that protest leaders were “henchmen” and members of the “MEK,” a reference to the Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (aka MKO), or People’s Mujahedin of Iran, an exiled dissident group that backs the overthrow of Iran’s leadership. He claimed the MKO had been “hired as minions for this plot.”

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