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Iran admits torturing detainees

French academic Clotilde Reiss was reportedly arrested at the Tehran airport on July 1 and jailed on charges related to the rioting that followed June’s presidential election. The French Foreign Ministry called for her release.

Associated Press

French academic Clotilde Reiss was reportedly arrested at the Tehran airport on July 1 and jailed on charges related to the rioting that followed June’s presidential election. The French Foreign Ministry called for her release.

BEIRUT — A top judiciary official acknowledged Saturday that some detainees arrested after postelection protests had been tortured in Iranian prisons, the first such acknowledgment by a senior Iranian official.

Meanwhile, a second day of hearings was held in a mass trial of reformers and election protesters, with more than 100 people accused of trying to topple the government. The accused included a French researcher and employees of the French and British embassies, prompting angry responses from Britain, France and the European Union.

Speaking to reporters at a news conference, Qorbanali Dori-Najafabadi, the prosecutor general, said "mistakes" had led to a few "painful accidents which cannot be defended, and those who were involved should be punished."

Such mistakes, he said, included "the Kahrizak incident," a reference to the deaths of several detainees at Kahrizak detention center in southwestern Tehran.

His comments came after reports that detainees had been tortured, and they fell somewhere between an admission and an accusation, as most of the arrests were made by the Revolutionary Guards and the paramilitary Basij militia, which are not under the control of the judiciary.

The statement was likely to be incendiary in Iran, where allegations of torture by Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi became a central justification of the 1979 revolution that brought the hard-line clerics to power.

At the trial on Saturday, families of the defendants gathered outside the court and were attacked by riot police officers when they began chanting slogans, Web sites reported.

In the courtroom, the French researcher and an analyst at the British Embassy who have been accused of spying took the stand to apologize, saying they had only wanted to update their embassies on Iran's recent political turmoil.

The researcher, Clotilde Reiss, who was working at Isfahan University, said she had collected news and information about politics and the protests, and presented some of it to officials at the French Embassy in Tehran.

"I realize this was a mistake," she said, according to the semiofficial Fars news agency.

Hossein Rassam, a political analyst at the British Embassy in Tehran who is an Iranian citizen, also took the stand after espionage charges were read out against him. He said his job required him to gather information on Iranian politics and to convey it to his employers.

He then expressed "regret," according to Fars, and asked for a pardon and an opportunity to make up for any action that might have harmed the government.

The trial, which opened Aug. 1, has included confessions by prominent reformist figures, whose friends and relatives said they had been coerced through torture. The confessions Saturday appeared to be part of a strategy to link the opposition, which maintains that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's landslide election on June 12 was rigged, to foreign powers.

Britain's foreign secretary, David Miliband, said the action against Rassam and Reiss "only brings further discredit on the Iranian regime." The French government demanded that Iran immediately release Reiss and its embassy staff member, Nazak Afshar, saying espionage accusations against them were baseless.

Iran admits torturing detainees 08/08/09 [Last modified: Sunday, August 9, 2009 12:55am]

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