More than 40 members of the Iranian Parliament have voiced support for human rights activists and organizations calling for an independent investigation into the deaths of detained protesters, says Tehran MP Mahmoud Sadeghi.
In a letter to parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani, the MPs asked him to form an independent group to investigate the deaths of prisoners who had allegedly participated in recent widespread street rallies against the ruling regime.
Sadeghi published a copy of the letter on his Twitter account without referring to the names of the signatories.
According to the letter, while the “concerned authorities” officially say detainees Sina Ghanbari and Vahid Heydari committed suicide behind bars, it has also been reported that several of their relatives believe otherwise.
A resident of Dezful, southwestern Iran, Mohsen Adeli is another prisoner who reportedly lost his life at a detention center.
Deputy parliamentary speaker Ali Motahari said on January 12 that three persons had died in prison and the parliament is following up on their cases.
Motahari also confirmed that the cause of death was officially listed as suicide.
Nevertheless, many human rights activists and international organizations, including New York-based Human Rights Campaign for Iran (CHRI), dismissed the official reports as baseless and false.
On January 9, CHRI announced the names of two detainees who died in provinces while in custody: Heydari in the central city of Arak and Adeli in Dezful.
Ghanbari, 23, died in custody in Tehran under unknown circumstances on January 7. The authorities claimed he killed himself in a toilet at Evin Prison and that there is footage documenting the suicide.
The alleged footage has not yet been made public despite calls from human rights monitors, including UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Iran Asma Jahangir, for its validation.
Heydari, 22, died in detention at the 12th Police Station in Arak at some point around the turn of the new year, CHRI reported.
His lawyer told CHRI that the authorities are trying to cover up the real cause of death by claiming he committed suicide.
Furthermore, according to CHRI, evidence of a severe blow to Heydari’s skull was detected before his body was buried. Heydari’s family has been pressured to avoid speaking to the media.
The MP's letter comes at the same time that a request by two parliament members to visit Tehran's notorious Evin prison was rejected.
Tehran MP and the head of parliament’s Security Committee Mostafa Kavakebian, had previously stated that a visit was scheduled for January 13.
It is not yet officially clear who has rejected the request or why. The Iranian Constitution stipulates that MPs have the right to investigate all state affairs except for those under direct supervision of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Tehran MP Fatemeh Saeidi had earlier said that the request to visit Evin had been delivered to the judiciary.
However, it is not clear if the judiciary is responsible for rejecting MPs’ request.
Now, if an independent parliamentary group is formed as a "truth commission" it can pave the way for visits to prisons, according to the outspoken Deputy Speaker of parliament, Ali Motahari.
In the MPs’ letter to Larijani, signatories pointed out that the number of those who died in custody is more than what is officially reported, Sadeghi tweeted.
The letter was sent to Larijani after it was reported that the body of a young man from the mainly Kurdish-populated city of Sanandaj in western Iran had been handed over to his family.
Saro Ghahremani, 24, went missing during the nationwide protests that broke out on December 28. According to the reports, his parents were allowed to accompany their son’s body in the hearse that took them to a rushed funeral where security prevented anyone else from attending.
Ghahremani had reportedly been detained for 11 days before his death.
Judiciary spokesman Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei said on January 13 that Ghahremani’s detention was unrelated to the recent protests.
Sanandaj city authorities stated on January 14 that Ghahremani had been affiliated with “hostile terrorist groups” and killed in a shootout with security forces.
Ghahremani’s relatives, however, took issue with that story of events, saying there was no trace of a bullet wound on the body. They also claimed that the medical examiner was not allowed to file an autopsy report.