Iranian leader orders closure of prison housing protesters

TEHRAN - Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has ordered the closure of a prison in southern Tehran, state media reported Tuesday amid concerns about the fate of protesters arrested in the wake of last month’s disputed presidential election.

Parliament deputy Kazem Jalali told the Mehr news agency that the leader ordered the Kahrizak detention centre shut down because it lacked the necessary standards for preserving detainees’ rights.

Kahrizak is said to be the main place where the election protesters were held and where some of them also died in mysterious ways.

According to official statistics, more than 1,000 people were arrested in protests over election fraud alleged by the opposition in the June 12 vote, and of those, at least 20 have been killed and 300 are still in jail.

In the meantime, not only the reformist opposition, led by presidential candidate Mir-Hossein Moussavi, but also conservative circles and parliament deputies have voiced concerns over the fate of the prisoners.

Judiciary chief Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahrudi has ordered immediate action be taken on the detained protesters and said that detainees with no major charges should be released on bail within one week.

The chief judge also demanded a detailed report from a three-man commission on the treatment of the detainees and the situation inside the prisons.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose disputed re-election is the main reason for the current crisis in Iran, has already sacked his information minister and head of the intelligence service, Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejei.

Moussavi had accused security officials of treating prisoners the way detainees were treated when the shah ruled Iran.

In a statement issued Monday on his website, Moussavi termed the killings and arrests of the protesters as a catastrophe and said “people would never forget those elements behind these crimes”.

Moussavi expressed worry that even the judiciary was not aware of the mass arrests and treatment of the prisoners, indicating that some security officials were acting independently.

The concern within parliament over the detainees, the order by the judiciary chief and Khamenei’s order to close down the Kahrizak prison are considered by observers as the first victory for Moussavi and the opposition.

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