Was Kahrizak prison doctor a victim or villain?

During a visit to the Tehran military courthouse one day last fall, Hossein and Hamid spotted the doctor.

Memories from their five days at Kahrizak prison came flooding back. Prisoners seeking help were handed a few aspirin and told to go away. When they asked for bandages, the doctor struck some lightly with a club.

One inmate had been beaten so badly on his feet that his toes were swollen and infected and he couldn’t walk properly. He arranged for an appointment with the doctor, who told him, “Get lost before I beat you up,” according to Hossein, who said he didn’t even bother asking for help for his own injuries.

“He was not kind to us at all,” he said.

Now the former inmates were seeking justice. And Dr. Ramin Pourandarjani was facing charges of mistreatment, said lawyers and former prisoners.

Confronting him at the courthouse, Hamid pressed the young doctor about Amir Javadifar, whom he had accompanied to the infirmary and who later died of his injuries.

The doctor had assured him Javadifar would be all right, Hamid said.

“Do you remember you said, ‘Amir is not going to die,’ ” Hamid said he told him.

“He was worried,” Hossein said. “I told him: ‘You as a doctor have taken the Hippocratic oath. Why did you not treat us?’ He answered meekly: ‘I was a simple doctor doing my military service in there. I had no authority.’ ”

The doctor insisted that the higher-ups wouldn’t allow him to treat the patients.

On Nov. 10, the 26-year-old Pourandarjani was found dead in the dormitory of the military hospital where he worked. After conflicting explanations about the cause of death, coroners declared that he had died of poisoning.

His parents told journalists abroad that he had been killed for speaking out to officials about Kahrizak and cooperating with the investigation against others at the facility.

But others, including two coroners, told The Times the death scene suggested that he may have committed suicide.

Was Pourandarjani a victim, hero or villain in the Kahrizak affair? It may never be known.

-- Ramin Mostaghim and Borzou Daragahi