Iranian authorities still blocking visits by MPs amid claims of beatings of detainees


Reformist MP Mahmoud Sadeghi has demanded access to Iran’s prisons after thousands of protesters were detained and several died in custody in the past four weeks.

Challenging the judiciary and the Prisons Agency, which have denied any access by MPs, Sadeghi said, “Instead of threatening…let the legislators visit prisons.”

Officially Iranian authorities acknowledged that 1,800 people were detained at some point during protests that escalated from December 28 and spread across Iran. Sadeghi and activists said the actual number was more than 3,700.

At least five protesters died while in custody. Iranian officials claimed suicides and then insisted that two of the men were drug addicts. Activists and relatives say there are signs the victims were beaten, with the authorities restricting funerals, releasing the bodies after days and allowing only parents to attend.

Last week Sadeghi said that one of the detainees who perished had told relatives that he and other prisoners were forced to take pills that made them sick. The Prison Agency then threatened the MP with legal action:

These unfounded and imaginary claims amount to spreading lies and disturbing public opinion. Those who present such claims will be sued and legally charged as soon as possible in the Revolution and Public Courts.

Sadeghi refused to back down, writing on Twitter: “It’s good for the Prisons Agency to explain its responsibility concerning a healthy person it places behind bars, but later delivers his dead body to his family.”

More than 40 MPs have written to President Hassan Rouhani and the judiciary, asking for an independent investigation. More than 150 lawyers have appealed to head of judiciary Sadeq Larijani.

Rouhani’s deputy for parliamentary affairs, Hossein Ali Amiri, said the Government is purusing the case of the detainees “as far as it is allowed to do so”.

Supreme Leader Orders Decreased Military Involvement in Economy

The Supreme Leader has ordered the Iranian military to reduce its involvement in the economy.

Defense Minister Gen. Amir Hatami said on Saturday, “Based on Ayatollah Khamenei’s edict, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic has been assigned to pave the way for giving up those economic entities controlled by the Armed Forces that are not related to their mission”.

But Hatami said the Revolutionary Guards will continue activities in the construction sector through its Khatam ol-Anbia industrial affiliate.

Hatami did not say which businesses in the “investment sector” will be transferred to private ownership.

The Revolutionary Guards have a significant stake in Iran’s economy and have been able to increase it in the past decade with the supposed privatization of State interests. A corporation affiliated with the paramilitary Basij has also bought shares in companies and factories, including in the steel and pharmaceutical sectors.

President Hassan Rouhani has criticized the hold of the Guards over much of Iran’s economic activity after the privatization initiative of the Ahmadinejad Administration between 2005 and 2013: “A part of Iran’s economy used to be controlled by an unarmed government, but we delivered it to a government armed with guns.”