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Iranian protesters urge President Rouhani to free political prisoners

TEHRAN — Relatives of Iranians jailed on various security charges held a protest Tuesday outside the offices of President Hassan Rouhani, alleging that the prisoners are being detained unfairly.

The demonstration came as Iranian officials denied reports of violent clashes last week in the capital’s Evin Prison, where dissidents say many political prisoners are held.

Opposition websites and relatives of prisoners reported that authorities stormed a cellblock at  Evin and that many inmates were injured. Officials described the incident as a routine crackdown on prisoners' illegal possession of cellphones.

About 50 people participated in the Tehran protest against what they called illegal detention of fellow Iranians, many of whom were arrested in the aftermath of disputed 2009 elections that generated mass street protests.

“I am here to say that my husband has not been treated fairly, and I want him to be tried within the framework of the law, of our constitution” said Masoumeh Dehgan, wife of Abtulfatah Sultani, a well-known human rights lawyer who she said has been imprisoned for four years.

On Saturday, protesters demonstrated in front of the courthouse in Tehran. On Sunday, they went to the parliament and met with a number of lawmakers. But they said their pleas appeared to fall on deaf ears.

Dehgan expressed some frustration with the administration of President Rouhani, a moderate cleric who took office last year amid hope that civil liberties would be bolstered and those imprisoned for political crimes would be released. Like others, she theorized that conservatives hostile to change were blocking reforms.

“I think President Rouhani has the goodwill and wants to do his best for getting our loved ones released, but the hard-liners in the judiciary branch are against him,” she said.

On Monday, several of the demonstrators went to visit family members in Evin. Witnesses reported seeing at least four prisoners who appeared to have been injured.

One demonstrator, Farshad Qourbanpour, said that prisoner Akbar Amini had trouble seeing  because he had been hit on the head during last week’s violence.

“Who hit him?” asked Qourbanpour, who describes himself as a former political prisoner. “The genies? The angels? Why doesn’t the head of Evin Prison investigate? Why does the minister of justice deny this without doing any proper fact-finding?”

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Mostaghim is a special correspondent. Times staff writer Patrick J. McDonnell in Beirut contributed.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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