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IRANIAN PANEL SAYS CHARGES OF PRISONER RAPE ARE FALSE

A judicial committee in Iran ruled Saturday that accusations put forward by the opposition that its supporters had been raped at detention centers were baseless and that documents presented to the authorities as evidence were fabricated, Fars News Agency reported.

The announcement was yet another indication that the government might be ready to arrest Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, who have continued to assail the country's leaders over a disputed presidential election in June and the crackdown of protesters that followed.

The rape accusations have been embarrassing for the country's religious leadership, which only reluctantly admitted that there had been other "violations" at one detention center. The admission came after many former prisoners said they had been tortured, and after conservatives joined a chorus of criticism against the treatment of detainees.

Last week, the government raided the offices of Mousavi and Karroubi and is believed to have seized the evidence that the two men were collecting to substantiate the claims of mistreatment and deaths in detention centers.

And on Saturday, in what appeared to be another attempt to quiet the criticism of prisoner treatment, the authorities announced that they were holding seven suspects for alleged violations at the Kahrizak detention center, which was recently closed by the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The judicial committee's ruling came just one day after Khamenei issued a warning to opposition leaders, saying the government would not tolerate "lies and rumors," and would give a "harsh response" to those who challenged its principles.

"The theme of the report suggests that the authorities can no longer tolerate the accusations and want to arrest Mr. Karroubi and Mr. Mousavi," said one lawyer in Tehran who spoke to the New York Times on the condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of the issue. "Rape charges are very serious in our culture and the literature used in the report suggests that the authorities fear the reputation of the regime has been jeopardized."

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