Iran parliament to investigate blogger's death

DUBAI Sun Nov 11, 2012 10:34pm IST

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DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran's parliament will investigate the death of a blogger in police custody, a lawmaker said on Sunday following international condemnation of the incident.

Sattar Beheshti was arrested in his home on October 30, rights groups reported, after receiving death threats. The 35-year-old who ran an anti-government blog died possibly as a result of torture, Amnesty International said last week.

Deputy parliament speaker Mohammad Hassan Abu-Torabi Fard said on Sunday a committee would investigate Beheshti's death, according to the Mehr news agency.

"The national security and foreign policy committee of Parliament has investigated this topic and has formed a committee in this regard," Abu-Torabi Fard was quoted as saying.

Conservative and outspoken lawmaker Ahmad Tavakoli, who represents Tehran, criticised Iran's judiciary for failing to address Beheshti's death.

"I recommend that instead of dealing harshly with bloggers, you go after corrupt officials," Tavakoli said, according to Mehr.

But in a statement later on Sunday, Iran's judiciary said it would "quickly and decisively" deal with those responsible for Beheshti's death.

"With the decisive and special order of judiciary chief Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani, all the aspects of the incidents have been carefully studied and the results will soon be announced," the statement said, according to Mehr.

Iran has rejected criticism of its human rights record in the past as political and motivated by Western opposition to the Islamic Republic. But its leadership has taken action on other allegations of mistreatment of prisoners.

In 2009, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ordered the closure of the notorious Kahrizak detention centre. The order was given because the centre could not preserve "the rights of detainees", said legislators at the time.

Media is tightly controlled in Iran and blogging has become one of the few outlets - albeit a risky one - for criticising the state.

Beheshti's family initially gave interviews to media outlets on the circumstances of his arrest, but the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran said on Thursday it had not been able to contact them in recent days and believed the family had been ordered by authorities to keep silent.

The Committee to Protect Journalists said Iran must explain Beheshti's sudden death, and that the government must "halt its intense harassment of the victim's family".

The day before his arrest, Beheshti said he had been threatened.

"They sent me a message saying, 'Tell your mother she will soon be wearing black because you don't shut your big mouth'," Amnesty quoted him as saying.

The European Union's foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton said on Sunday she was deeply concerned by Beheshti's death and she called on Iran to conduct a thorough enquiry into the case.

(Additional reporting by Robin Emmott in Brussels and Zahra Hosseinian; Editing by Stephen Powell)

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