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Iran blogger's death in prison reportedly sets off blame game among authorities

The mysterious death of an Iranian blogger while in police custody has reportedly generated a rash of criticism from officials dismayed by the case that has drawn international condemnation once again on the nation’s poor human rights record.

The Los Angeles Times reports that Iranian authorities have echoed calls from human rights groups such as Amnesty International for a thorough investigation into the death of Sattar Beheshti, 35, who died Nov. 3 under murky circumstances, according to various reports, after being arrested by Iran's cyber police.

The case, the Times reports, has sparked an unusually public and charged bout of blame-dispensing among various powerful factions in the Islamic Republic. Beheshti, a working-class high-school dropout virtually unknown until his death, frequently criticized the lack of freedom in Iran.

Mehdi Davatgari, a parliament member, claimed on Monday that the cyber police — known as FATA — had held Beheshti illegally overnight without a court order. He called for the "resignation or dismissal of the cyber police chief," reported Press TV, the government's English-language broadcast service.

The public prosecutor's office also said this week that the most likely cause of Beheshti's death was "shock," either from psychological pressure while under interrogation or from beatings received while in custody. Those findings seemingly contradict an earlier assessment by Tehran's chief coroner, Ahmad Shojaei, that Beheshti probably died of natural causes, possibly a heart attack, despite his relatives’ assurance that Beheshti had no history of heart problems.

"Officials are blaming each other and want to shrug off responsibility to others," journalist Farshad Ghorbanpour told the newspaper, adding that he spent eight months in jail for his writings on Iranian opposition websites and news outlets abroad.

The coroner, in comments to the semiofficial Mehr News Agency, acknowledged signs of bruising on five parts of the dead man's body — from hands to feet — indicating that Beheshti had been beaten. But he said that the blogger suffered no broken bones and that the physical evidence did not indicate any brutality that could have been fatal. Toxicology and other tests are pending, the Times reports.

Click for more from the Los Angeles Times.

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