Report: Iran suspends 3 senior judiciary officials allegedly linked to prisoner torture deaths

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran has suspended three senior judiciary officials over last year's torture deaths of three imprisoned anti-government protesters, media reported Monday — the latest move to account for the case that significantly embarrassed the authorities.

The deaths of the prisoners drew some of the fiercest criticism against Iran's ruling establishment and its treatment of those arrested in the turmoil following the disputed 2009 presidential election.

The suspensions pave the way for trial of the three officials, the independent Tehran-e Emrooz and several other newspapers said. The officials' names were not released and there were no details about their suspected links to the torture deaths.

The reports said Iran's disciplinary court ordered the officials suspended from their posts and revoked their immunity from trial. Under Iranian law, a judge or a prosecutor can go on trial only after suspension from the job.

The three slain prisoners were detained in mass street protests that erupted after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's re-election in June 2009 and died in Tehran's Kahrizak prison the following month.

One of the slain was 24-year-old Mohsen Rouhalamini, the son of a prominent conservative figure. His death sparked an outcry even among government supporters. The two other victims were identified as Amir Javadifar and Mohammad Kamrani.

Anger over the abuse first emerged last August, after influential conservative figures in the clerical hierarchy condemned the mistreatment of detainees. Authorities initially denied the Kahrizak abuse claims, accusing the opposition of running a campaign of lies against the government.

But after the outrage, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has final say on all state matters, ordered the prison's closure and authorities eventually took measures against those implicated.

In January, a parliament probe found a former Tehran prosecutor, Saeed Mortazavi, responsible for the torture deaths in Kahrizak. However, there has been no word of any action to punish Mortazavi, who has since become the head of an anti-smuggling government body.

In June, two prison officials were convicted and sentenced to death on charges of torturing and killing the three opposition protesters. Nine other suspects were sentences to prison terms and flogging over the case, and Iran has said dozens more are still awaiting trial in the same case.

The suspensions reported Monday are also the first in Iran's judiciary since its establishment in 1908 after a constitutional revolution during the Qajar dynasty, the papers said.

Hundreds of protesters and opposition activists were arrested in the government crackdown following the June 2009 vote, which the opposition says Ahmadinejad won through massive vote fraud.

The opposition says more than 80 protesters were killed in the crackdown, but the government has confirmed around 30 deaths.

More than 100 protesters, activists and pro-reform opposition have been put on trial, accused of fueling the protests and being part of a plot to overthrow the government. Among the opposition figures on trial, 10 have so far received death sentences, which are under appeal.