Blogger Who Died in Prison Was Not Tortured, Iran Says

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TEHRAN -- An influential Iranian lawmaker said Monday that a blogger who died last week while in captivity had not been tortured during interrogations.

"According to a preliminary report, no traces of beating were seen on his body," the lawmaker, Ala'edin Borujerdi, told the semiofficial Islamic Students News Agency. However, Mr. Borujerdi, who heads the National Security and Foreign Policy committees in Parliament, called for further investigation into the case, a rare instance in which Iran's parliament and judiciary followed up a human rights complaint that was first raised internationally.

Iran's judiciary also confirmed the death of the blogger, Sattar Beheshti, acknowledging that five bruises were found on his body but insisting that the blogger, who was 35, died from natural causes. He was held in the Kahrizak police prison south of Tehran, where three people died during the antigovernment protests in 2009.

"His body showed no fractures of bones, nor did his skull," a judiciary spokesman, Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei, told reporters at his weekly news conference on Monday. He added that a doctor in Evin prison, where Mr. Beheshti was held temporarily before being transferred to Kahrizak, had reported that the blogger was "extremely exhausted" and had recommended a psychiatric evaluation.

The death of Mr. Beheshti, a government critic who was regarded as a relatively minor figure in Iran's blogosphere, has sparked outrage among both opponents and supporters of Iran's leaders. Foreign-based opposition media have said he was tortured to death, while officials and pro-government bloggers were upset that state news media initially ignored the matter, creating a long silence that made the authorities appear indifferent.

The judiciary spokesman said that Mr. Beheshti was arrested on Oct. 30 upon the request of Iran's cyberpolice, known here under their Persian abbreviation of FATA.

Since its establishment in January 2011, FATA has arrested several bloggers who had been critical of Iran's leaders, and also a group of youths who had created a "hot or not" contest on Facebook rating profile pictures of boys and girls.

Mr. Beheshti's Web site, "My Life for My Iran," which has been taken offline, criticized Iran's financial contributions to the Hezbollah movement in Lebanon. On his Web site Mr. Beheshti posted pictures of Lebanese youths having parties alongside images of Iranians living in poverty.

A day before his arrest, Mr. Beheshti published a post saying that officers had warned him in a telephone call that his "mother should soon don a black shroud because you refuse to shut your big mouth." But, he added, "I will not remain silent even at the moment of my death."

His arrest was quickly picked up by foreign-based satellite channels and Web sites, which reported on all details of Mr. Beheshti's disappearance and suspected death. In interviews, family members said officials told them on Nov. 6 to come and pick up Mr. Beheshti's body.

One of Mr. Beheshti's maternal uncles said that he had been present at a hurried funeral for the blogger in his hometown, Robat Karim, outside Tehran, but said that he had not been allowed to identify the body.

One opposition Web site reprinted a signed, official complaint form against an interrogator that it said had been lodged by Mr. Beheshti while he was at Evin prison.

"I, Sattar Beheshti, was arrested by FATA and beaten and tortured with multiple blows to my head and body," the document, published by the Kalame Web site, read.

He added: "I want to write that if anything happens to me, the police are responsible."

One blogger, Ehsan Rastgar, said that no matter what Mr. Beheshti's political inclinations might have been, he should never have been interrogated by people who cannot distinguish between a "murderer and a blogger."

According to Mr. Rastgar, who said he had personally given detailed information to members of Iran's Parliament about Mr. Beheshti's death, the blogger had been interrogated by the criminal investigative police, which normally deals with cases of rape and murder.

"We can't go around treating bloggers as if they are militants," Mr. Rastgar said." If they do something wrong there should be a court summoning and possibly a conviction. "But not this."

world

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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