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Former Tehran Prosecutor Blamed For Protesters' Deaths In Prison

Hundreds of opposition protesters have been arrested since the disputed presidential election in June.

Hundreds of opposition protesters have been arrested since the disputed presidential election in June.

The Iranian parliament has publicly blamed the former Tehran prosecutor for the deaths of three antigovernment protesters who died in custody in July 2009.

A report by Iranian parliamentary investigators made public on January 10 said Sayeed Mortazavi had ordered 147 detained protesters to be sent to Kahrizak prison despite a lack of space in the facility.

The report said the prisoners were held in a 70-square-meter room for four days without proper ventilation, food, or medical care.

The parliamentary report rejected Mortazavi's claims the three inmates, Mohsen Ruholamini -- whose father was close to Iran's political elite -- as well as Muhammad Kamrani and Amir Javadifar had died from meningitis.

The deaths of the three were the result of "limitation of space, poor sanitary conditions, inappropriate nutrition, heat, lack of ventilation” and "physical attacks,” the report said, admitting the prisoners had been assaulted.

They were arrested on July 9 amid massive antigovernment street protests following Iran's contested June presidential election.

Mortazavi, who played a key role in the interrogation and mass trials of reformists and antigovernment protesters after the election, has since been replaced as Tehran's chief prosecutor and made the head of Iran's counter-smuggling agency.

According to the parliamentary report, Mortazavi had sent prisoners to Kahrizak in the south of capital, instead of keeping them in Tehran's Evin prison, even though Evin officials said there was enough space to keep detained protesters.

Kahrizak officials reportedly first refrained from accepting the detainees, citing the lack of any space, but they were forced to take in the prisoners at Mortazavi's insistence.

Prison For 'Dangerous Inmates'

Kahrizak was originally set up as a temporary detention center and does not have the same regulations as official prisons. It does not have facilities for family visits.

Kazem Jalali, a spokesman for the parliamentary investigative team, said Kahrizak was designated to keep "dangerous inmates,” such as convicted drug-traffickers.

Kahrizak was closed on the orders of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamanei in late July amid opposition outcry over the inmates' deaths and allegations of rape and assault of imprisoned protesters.

The parliamentary report, however, "strongly” rejected rape claims, saying the investigation "arrived at no instances of sexual molestation.”

Mehdi Karubi, a reformist opposition leader and presidential candidate in the June election, has alleged some protesters were raped in Kahrizak.

Nasrin Sotoudeh, a Tehran-based lawyer who represents some of imprisoned protesters, told RFE/RL's Radio Farda that the rape claims should be investigated properly.

"It's not up to a parliamentary committee to look into such a matter because these types of claims need legal investigations. That's why Mr. Karubi has wisely implied he was ready to provide the evidence in this regard to the head of the criminal justice system. A court should be set up and those documents should be presented to its judge,” Sotoudeh said.

The parliamentary investigative committee was made up of at least six members of parliament, including both conservative and moderate lawmakers.

Iran's opposition claims at least 80 protesters were killed during the government crackdown on postelection street demonstrations that plunged Iran into political turmoil.

The authorities, however, put the number of deaths at less than 40.

Iran's police chief in August admitted some arrested protesters had been abused at Kahrizak and dismissed the head of the facility.

But it was only in December that authorities acknowledged that three had died in custody as a result of their mistreatment.