TEHRAN, (Reuters) – Iranian opposition leaders say 69 people were killed in protests after a disputed election in June — more than double the official toll of 26 — and parliament has promised to investigate, pro-reform newspapers said on Tuesday.
Many conservatives have joined an outcry led by reformist opponents of re-elected hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad over the treatment of more than 4,000 people officials say were detained throughout Iran during demonstrations after the vote.
The opposition says the poll was rigged, a charge denied by Iran’s authorities, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has accused Western powers of inciting the unrest. “The names of 69 people who were killed in post-election unrest … were submitted to parliament for investigation. The report also included the names of about 220 detainees,” Alireza Hosseini Beheshti, an ally of moderate presidential candidate Mirhossein Mousavi, was quoted by Sarmayeh daily as saying.
Judiciary spokesman Alireza Jamshidi told a news conference more than 4,000 protesters had been detained after the election, of whom 3,700 had been released within a week of their arrest.
Among those still in prison are senior pro-reform politicians, journalists, activists and lawyers.
Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani said after a meeting on Monday with a committee set up by opposition leaders to pursue the issue that the assembly would carefully review cases of detainees and those killed, Etemad-e Melli newspaper said.
Mehdi Karoubi, who also ran in the June 12 poll, said on Sunday that some protesters, both men and women, had been raped in detention. He said he had written 10 days earlier to Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who heads a powerful arbitration body, asking for an inquiry, but had received no response.
“Such claims (of detainee abuse) will be investigated by parliament,” said Larijani, a conservative who has frequently criticised Ahmadinejad’s foreign and domestic policies.
Ahmadinejad, who was sworn in last week, must name a cabinet and seek parliament’s approval in what may be a stormy process.
Last month Khamenei, the supreme leader, ordered the closure of a “sub-standard” detention centre at Kahrizak. Police chief Esmail Ahmadi-Moghaddam has acknowledged that some protesters were tortured at Kahrizak and said its director had been jailed.
Many protesters were held at Kahrizak, in southern Tehran, which was built for vice law offenders. At least three people died in custody there, causing widespread public anger.
Rafsanjani, a former president who backed Mousavi’s election campaign, announced he would not lead Friday prayers this week to avoid any repeat of clashes that followed his last sermon.
Violence erupted between police and Mousavi supporters after Rafsanjani declared in a nationally broadcast sermon on July 17 that the Islamic Republic was in crisis over the election.
In remarks seen as challenging the authority of the supreme leader, who has sided strongly with Ahmadinejad, Rafsanjani also called for an end to detentions of opposition figures.
“To avoid any possible clashes at Friday prayers, he will not lead the prayers this week,” Rafsanjani’s office said.
Rafsanjani, an architect of the 1979 Islamic revolution, is one of four clerics who take turns to lead Friday prayers at Tehran University. He also heads the Assembly of Experts, which appoints and can in theory dismiss the supreme leader.
Iranian Nobel Peace laureate Shirin Ebadi, who has said more than 100 people were killed after the election, urged U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to visit her country to hear first-hand accounts of human rights abuses. “He must speak to the families whose members have been arrested or killed,” Ebadi, speaking through a translator, said in Seoul, where she received a local peace prize. She also described as “ridiculous” mass trials of more than 100 Iranian detainees, including a Frenchwoman and two Iranians working for the British and French embassies in Tehran.
The defendants have been charged with spying and conniving in a Western plot to overthrow Iran’s system of clerical rule. “The trials show that the administration is weak. These mass trials are not in line with the laws of Islam,” Ebadi said.