Former Iran Prosecutor Blamed for Prison Torture Deaths

A parliamentary probe has found a former Tehran prosecutor responsible for the death by torture of at least three anti-government protesters detained in the turmoil following the disputed June elections, a conservative Iranian Web site reported Wednesday.

Saeed Mortazavi was the Tehran city prosecutor who was responsible for monitoring Kahrizak prison. After months of denials, Iran's judiciary acknowledged last month that three detainees there were beaten to death by their jailers.

The Alef Web site, which reported the probe results, is close to conservative lawmaker Ahmad Tavakoli. It said Mortazavi personally ordered that detained protesters be taken to Kahrizak — a facility on Tehran's outskirts where much of the prisoner abuse took place.

Iran's judiciary has charged 12 officials at Kahrizak — three of them with murder — but has not identified them.

Mortazavi is detested by reformists, who have dubbed him the "butcher of the press" and "torturer of Tehran" because he was behind the closure of more than 120 newspapers and the imprisonment of dozens of journalists and political activists over the past decade.

Anger over the abuse claims, which emerged in August, extended far beyond the reformist camp, with influential conservative figures in the clerical hierarchy condemning the mistreatment of detainees. The outrage forced Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to order the immediate closure of the Kahrizak.

After serving as Tehran prosecutor, Mortazavi was promoted in August to deputy state prosecutor. He currently heads a government body tasked with fighting smuggling of goods, making him the highest ranking official to be implicated in the case so far. However, reformists also accuse President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of being responsible for the abuses.

The confirmation by the hard-line judiciary of the prisoner deaths confirmed one of the opposition's most devastating claims against authorities and the elite Revolutionary Guard forces that led the crackdown after the presidential vote.

The opposition says more than 80 protesters have been killed in the postelection crackdown, but the government puts the number of confirmed dead at less than 40.

After reports of torture and rape emerged, authorities vowed to punish those found guilty to control the damage. The Alef Web site said the probe put "the blame on Saeed Mortazavi, the former Tehran Prosecutor who was in charge of Kahrizak prison."

The feared Mortazavi led interrogations of dozens of reformists arrested and put on trial after the June vote, according to opposition Web sites and families of the detained activists.

Iran's state radio reported that parliament has concluded its investigation and has listed some culprits, but didn't mention Mortazavi by name.

Authorities initially tried to repel the abuse claims by accusing the opposition of running a campaign of lies against the ruling system. Ahmadinejad had even accused Iran's enemies of being involved in the crimes, a claim the opposition rejected as ridiculous.

The unrest broke out after pro-reform candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi claimed he was robbed of the presidency through massive fraud in the vote.

Pressure around the abuse claims accelerated in early August.

One of the other pro-reform candidates defeated in the election, Mahdi Karroubi, said then that he had received reports from former military commanders and other senior officials that some detainees, male and female, were raped in custody.

One of the detainees who died in custody was the son of Abdolhossein Rouhalamini, a top aide to conservative presidential candidate Mohsen Rezaei. Rouhalamini's death, two weeks after he was arrested, sparked anger even among government supporters.