Iran Orders Detention Center Closed

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The Iranian opposition leader, Mir Hussein Moussavi, spoke out more strongly than ever before on Monday against the arrests and killings of protesters, hours before Iran’s supreme leader ordered the closing of a “nonstandard” prison apparently in an effort to deflect rising criticism over the issue.

Iranian news reports on Tuesday identified the prison as the Kahrizak detention center, south of Tehran, where reformist detainees are believed to be held, Reuters reported. The semiofficial Mehr news agency quoted a lawmaker, Kazem Jalali, as saying the center lacked standards to preserve “rights of detainees” and had been ordered closed on Monday by the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

“Kahrizak is the detention center which the leader ordered closed because it lacked necessary conditions to preserve rights of detainees,” Mr. Jalali said. He is the spokesman of a parliamentary panel investigating detentions after Iran’s disputed presidential election, Reuters said.

Referring to the arrests and killings of protesters, Mr. Moussavi said Monday, “How can it be that the leaders of our country do not cry out and shed tears about these tragedies?” His comments to a teachers’ association were posted on his Web site. “Can they not see it, feel it? These things are blackening our country, blackening all our hearts. If we remain silent, it will destroy us all and take us to hell.”

Mr. Moussavi’s angry tone appeared to reflect the steadily rising toll of those killed — some after being beaten in prison — in the crackdown that followed the disputed June 12 presidential election. A funeral was held in Tehran on Monday for Amir Javadi-Far, a student activist who died in prison after being arrested, and reports emerged of still more deaths.

Mr. Moussavi and other opposition leaders have asked permission to hold a public mourning ceremony for the dead on Thursday. That day has great symbolic importance, because it is 40 days after the shooting of Neda Agha-Soltan, the young woman whose death ignited widespread outrage in Iran and beyond.

Commemorating the 40th day after a person’s death is an important mourning ritual in Shiite Islam; similar anniversaries for dead protesters were essential in the demonstrations that led to the Islamic Revolution in 1979.

Mr. Moussavi and other opposition figures have called for the hundreds of remaining detainees to be released, and there were signs Monday that the government was feeling pressure on the issue.

A spokesman for Iran’s judiciary said Monday that the judiciary chief, Ayatollah Mahmoud Shahroudi, had ordered that criminal investigations of the detainees be expedited, and that all those innocent or guilty of only minor offenses be released within a week, Iranian news agencies reported.

It was the first time Ayatollah Shahroudi has addressed the detentions, though opposition figures have repeatedly made personal appeals to him to intervene.

The circle of those touched by the killings widened last week when Mohsen Ruholamini, the son of an adviser to conservative presidential candidate Mohsen Rezai, was reported by his family to have died in prison after a severe beating. Some senior members of Parliament have complained about the case. On Monday, Saeed Mortazavi, the prosecutor general of Tehran, said a special judge had been appointed to investigate the death, Iranian news agencies reported.

Repercussions continued from the political dispute over President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s promotion of a controversial ally, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, who made friendly comments about Israel last year. The issue has underscored persistent divisions among Iran’s conservatives.

More than 200 of Iran’s 290 members of Parliament signed a letter on Monday chastising Mr. Ahmadinejad, who ignored for almost a week a directive from Ayatollah Khamenei to drop Mr. Mashaei. Mr. Mashaei finally withdrew from the position as top presidential deputy on Friday, and the president promptly appointed him chief of staff.

In the letter, the lawmakers reminded Mr. Ahmadinejad of their support for him but urged him to “rectify his conduct” toward Ayatollah Khamenei, Press TV reported.

Members of Mr. Ahmadinejad’s cabinet have feuded with him over the Mashaei affair, and on Sunday he fired one of them, Intelligence Minister Gholam-Hussein Mohseni-Ejei.

The dispute may spark further dissension this week, with some legislators warning that the president’s actions could lead to a confidence vote on his cabinet, despite the fact that only a week remains before Mr. Ahmadinejad is sworn in for a second term and must submit a new cabinet to Parliament for approval.

Robert F. Worth reported from Dubai, and Nazila Fathi from Toronto


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