07/29/2009, 00.00
IRAN
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Under pressure, Ahmadinejad calls for the release of demonstrators in Tehran

About 140 prisoners have already been released. For the past several days the opposition has complained about violence and torture. A prison is shut down on order of Supreme Leader Khamenei. Authorities deny opposition the right to hold a rally to commemorate post-election crackdown victims. Iranian president is attacked by Conservatives for not obeying Khamenei.
Tehran (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Iranian President Ahmadinejad said the people arrested during demonstrations that followed his election should be released by 7 August. The announcement came after Iranian authorities freed 140 people detained in Evin Prison following street protests over last month's disputed election amid opposition claims of prisoner abuse.

For the first time yesterday Ahmadinejad referred to arrests made during protests against him and his re-election in the wake of allegations that his victory was tainted by electoral fraud. In a letter to Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, head of the Judicial System of Iran, the Iranian president said that applications for early release by defendants should be speeded up. Officially some 200 people are in jail.

According to the president, “the maximum of compassion in the name of Islam” should be shown to the prisoners so that can be “free and able to go back to their families for the anniversary of Imam Mahdi on 7 August.”

For many local observers the request for the prisoners’ release is a sign of tensions within Iran’s leadership, its Supreme Leader Alì Khamenei and his protégé Ahmadinejad.

In recent days many opposition websites have published reports about a number of young protesters being abused or dying under torture.

Although the information is hard to verify because of official control of the mass media, Iranian prisons are notorious for summarily executing the regime’s political opponents

Among the most serious charges there is the accusation that two young protesters died in prison from beating.

Tehran prison head Sohrab Soleimani denied the two protesters had died from prison beatings, insisting they had been struck down by meningitis.

But opposition leader Mir-Hossein Mousavi, Mr Ahmadinejad's closest election rival, said if one of the protesters had died of meningitis, "how come his teeth were broken?"

Reformist Sarmayeh newspaper also reported that the life of Saeed Hajjarian, an adviser to ex-president Mohammad Khatami being detained in Tehran's notorious Evin prison, was in danger.

Pressures from public opinion are such that Khamenei ordered Kahrizak Prison shut down “because it lacked necessary conditions to preserve the rights of detainees.

Despite this apparent victory the opposition failed to get a permit to hold a memorial rally tomorrow to commemorate those who died in the aftermath of the 12 June election. The gathering would have included remembering the fallen and listening to readings from the Qur‘an.

Tensions are also building up among pro-Khamenei Conservative lawmakers. One of them, Fahrad Tajari, said for example that 30 people had died during last month’s unrest, not 20 as initially claimed by the authorities.

For its part conservative newspaper Ya Lessarat today told Ahmadinejad to apologise to Supreme Leader Khamenei for not obeying him right away.

A few days ago Conservatives had complained about the president’s attempt to appoint Esfandiar Rahim Mashai as his vice-president and his refusal to sack him as Khamenei had ordered. 

The Islamic Society of Engineers, a political group close to parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani, also warned in an open letter that it would seek Ahmadinejad’s impeachment if he continues to defy the will of the supreme leader.

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