BEIRUT — The chief of the Tehran police unit charged with investigating online crime has been fired for “negligence and insufficient supervision” of subordinates in the incendiary case of a dissident Iranian blogger who died in police custody, Iranian news media reported Saturday.
Iranian news reports identified the police official as Mohammed Hassan Shokrian, who headed the capital’s cyber-police branch, known by the Persian initials FATA.
Iran’s police chief, Brig. Gen. Ismail Ahmadi Moghaddam, dismissed the cyber-police commander in a decree issued Saturday, reported Press TV, Iran’s English-language news service.
The firing is the latest fallout from the death in custody on Nov. 3 of Sattar Beheshti, 35, a laborer from in a working-class Tehran suburb who wrote a blog that was critical of what he viewed as the lack of freedom in the Islamic Republic. Beheshti was little-known in dissident circles until his death became a global cause celebre.
The case has drawn condemnation from international human rights groups such as Amnesty International. But it has also provoked outrage from various Iranian officials who have promised to investigate the matter thoroughly. Iranian authorities are sensitive to foreign criticism of the nation’s human rights record, and a parliamentary committee is conducting an inquiry.
Allies and rivals of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have tried to shift blame to one another for the blogger’s demise.
The exact cause of death remains a matter of some dispute. An initial coroner’s report indicated that the blogger may have succumbed to natural causes, perhaps a heart attack, though his family reportedly said Beheshti had no history of heart problems.
A subsequent finding determined that Beheshti may have died of “shock,” possibly from the stress of being interrogated or from being beaten while in custody. An official determination of the cause of his death is pending toxicology and other reports.
FATA reportedly arrested Beheshti in late October after he had received several warnings to cease his antigovernment blogging. He wrote that he had received death threats before his arrest. He later complained of having been beaten while in custody.
Times staff writer McDonnell reported from Beirut and special correspondent Mostaghim from Tehran.