TEHRAN, Iran, (AP) – A hard-line cleric said Friday that an Iranian opposition leader should be prosecuted for claiming that detained protesters were raped by their jailers in the country’s postelection crackdown.
Despite the uproar, the opposition leader, Mahdi Karroubi, pushed ahead with criticism, saying some detainees were tortured to death in the crackdown and said he had reports of Abu Ghraib-like abuses.
Some detainees were “forced to go naked, crawl on their hands knees and knees like animals, with prison guards riding on their backs.” Others were forced to lie “naked, on top of one another,” Karroubi said in a statement late Thursday.
“Young people were beaten severely … to death because they chanted slogans,” said Karroubi, a cleric who was one of two defeated pro-reform candidates in the June 12. “It is deplorable that people detained over election protests are tortured. Do such treatments conform with Islam, which is a religion of mercy?”
Karroubi made the new allegations days after he caused an uproar saying detained protesters had alleged that male and female prisoners were savagely raped by their jailers to the point of physical and mental damage.
Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani denied Karroubi’s rape allegations, saying a parliament probe into the allegations had found no truth in the reports. Hard-liners loudly denounced Karroubi, an ally of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, whose supporters say was the true victor in the presidential election.
Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami denounced Karroubi’s rape allegations during a sermon at Tehran’s main Friday prayer service and called for him to be prosecuted.
Khatami said Karroubi’s accusations were “full of libel, a total slander against the Islamic system” and were a boost to Iran’s enemies, the United States and Israel. “We expect the Islamic system to display an appropriate confrontation over this,” Khatami said.
Earlier this week, Hossein Shariatmadari, an aide to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and editor of the hard-line Kayhan newspaper, also demanded that Karroubi be put on trial for making the allegations.
Rights groups have long criticized Iran’s treatment of prisoners, saying torture is often used. But the opposition has taken up the claims of mistreatment in the postelection crackdown to rally support against the government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The alleged abuse has sparked widespread condemnation from reformists and conservative clerics alike, as well as hard-liners disenchanted with the turmoil gripping the country after Ahmadinejad’s proclaimed election victory.
Hundreds were arrested in the crackdown that crushed mass protests by Mousavi supporters following the election, which the opposition says were fraudulent.
Karroubi alleged that the abuses took place at Tehran’s Kahrizak prison, which has been the focus of all the torture claims so far and which Khamenei ordered closed earlier this month.
In a statement posted on his Web site late Thursday, Karroubi said he received testimonies from prisoners who recounted their own torture while in detention and from detainees who said they saw others being brutally tortured, some to death.
Karroubi slammed Larijani’s speedy denial of the rape allegations, saying no probe could have been completed that fast. He also vowed he won’t remain silent over the “medieval torture and corruption” in Iran’s prisons.
“Insults and criticism won’t make me silent. I’ll defend the rights of the people as long as I’m alive and you can’t stop my tongue, hand and pen,” said Karroubi, leader of the reformist National Confidence Party.
Reformists blame Ahmadinejad and his interior minister for the scandal, saying abuse at Kahrizak abuse has been like Iraq’s notorious Abu Ghraib prison, where scenes of U.S. jailers mistreating Iraqi prisoners outraged the Islamic world.
Mousavi has said the abuse shows the need for “deep change” in the country.
Manfred Nowak, an independent investigator appointed by the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, said Thursday he has received credible claims that Iranian protesters detained after the election were abused in prison.
“I truly believe that these complaints will stand up to scrutiny,” he told The Associated Press.
The alleged abuses include holding people incommunicado and extracting confessions through torture, Nowak said.