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Iran Replaces Prisons Chief After Protests

A policeman stands guard outside Iran's notorious Evin prison. (file photo)
Iran has appointed a new chief of prisons following protests by family members over reports that inmates had been abused at a notorious jail.

The official Islamic Republic News Agency said on April 23 that Asghar Jahangir would replace Gholamhossein Esmaili.

Jahangir is described as a close adviser to Ayatollah Sadegh Amoli Larijani, a cleric and the head of the government's judiciary branch.

Former chief Esmaili was appointed the new head of the Tehran Justice Department.

The families of men incarcerated in Evin prison in Tehran have protested twice this week, outside parliament and near President Hassan Rohani's office.

The demonstrations came after reports emerged thatinmates in Section 350, where prisoners accused of political crimes are held, were beaten, including some who needed hospitalization.

Taghi Rahmani, a well-known Iranian political analyst, told RFE/RL's Radio Farda that Esmaili's dismissal appears to be a "tactical move" by authorities to end the controversy over the alleged violence.

"It is, in a way, a retreat," Rahmani said. "It is a signal to a part of the society to rejoice over the replacement of the head of prisons organization. But it can be compensated [by authorities] with a new attack."

He added: "I think the policy of the establishment is to blame the victims."

Authorities have denied allegations that prison guards may have committed assault.

Justice Minister Mostafa Pourmohammadi has said that guards were conducting a routine prison inspection when the alleged abuse occurred.

He claimed that only two prisoners suffered minor injuries.

Esmaili, the dismissed prison chief, has also rejected reports about the alleged attack, describing them as fabrications.

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Speaking on April 23, the head of the judiciary, Ayatollah Larijani, said there had been no wrongdoing during the prison inspection.

He said Iran's enemies are using the issue as an excuse to revive "the sedition."

This is a term used by Iranian officials to refer to the antigovernment protests of 2009 and the subsequent crackdown by security forces on the opposition movement.

Paris-based Iranian political analyst Reza Alijani told RFE/RL that while Iran has been showing flexibility recently in its international ties, repression at home continues.

"It is often the case in Iran that heroic flexibility on the international scene is accompanied by a ruthless repression at home," Alijani said.
With reporting by RFE/RL's Radio Farda, and AP
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