Iran: Investigate reports of protester deaths in custody

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The Iranian authorities must immediately investigate reports that at least five people have died in custody following a crackdown on anti-establishment protests, and take all necessary steps to protect detainees from torture and prevent any further deaths, Amnesty International said today.

“The shroud of secrecy and lack of transparency over what happened to these detainees is alarming. Instead of rushing to the judgment that they committed suicide, the authorities must immediately launch an independent, impartial, and transparent investigation, including independent autopsies,” said Magdalena Mughrabi, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

“We have long documented the nightmarish conditions in detention facilities in Iran, including the use of torture. Those suspected of having any responsibility for these deaths should be suspended from their positions and prosecuted in proceedings that respect international fair trial standards and without recourse to the death penalty.”

Fears over the welfare of hundreds of detainees have been heightened by the death of Sina Ghanbari, 23, who was held in the ‘quarantine’ section of Tehran’s Evin prison, where detainees are held for processing immediately after being arrested. There have been conflicting reports about the circumstances surrounding Ghanbari’s death, with activists disputing the authorities’ claims that he had committed suicide.

Since then, at least four further deaths in custody have been reported, including another two deaths in Evin’s ‘quarantine’ section, according to prominent human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh. The identities of these two individuals are currently unknown. At least two others who were arrested during the crackdown – Vahid Heydari and Mohsen Adeli – died in custody in Arak, Markazi province and Dezfoul, Khuzestan province this month, according to reports. In all four cases, activists and several family members have disputed official claims that these detainees committed suicide.

Many relatives of the hundreds of people detained have reported that they have been unable to access information about their loved ones, and that they have faced intimidation and threats by the authorities even for making enquiries.

“The authorities must not only inform family members of detainees’ whereabouts, but also allow families to visit detainees and ensure they have legal representation. Nobody should face reprisals for inquiring about the whereabouts of a loved one or seeking truth about their fate,” said Magdalena Mughrabi.

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