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Iranian parliament calls for inquiry over blogger's death

Jan. 6, 2013 12:41 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 7, 2013 1:00 P.M.)
DUBAI (Reuters) -- Iran's parliament called on Sunday for a special inquiry to investigate the death in detention of a blogger whose posts criticized the country's leadership.

In a case that provoked international outrage, Sattar Beheshti was arrested in his home on October 30 after receiving death threats, and died some days later, having complained of being tortured.

"It is necessary that the responsible agencies ... exercise more supervision and seriousness with regard to these bitter events and carry out a special inquiry of the case of the death of Sattar Beheshti," parliament said in a report read out on Sunday.

The report also recommended training for all staff in detention units, the installation in detention centers of CCTV equipment and the regular inspection of facilities.

It is unclear what a special inquiry would involve and whether the government will follow up on the recommendations. But the report demonstrates the extent of concern within parliament over the case and the assembly's emphasis on human rights before presidential elections in June.

Authorities have arrested seven people suspected of involvement in Beheshti's death, three of whom are still in custody.

His death also led to the dismissal of the head of Tehran's cyber police unit for "failures and weaknesses in adequately supervising personnel under his supervision."

The Tehran prosecutor's office said the blogger may have lost his life as a result of a form of shock, but that the medical committee investigating it said the exact cause was impossible to determine.

Fellow prisoners in Evin prison in Tehran said Beheshti was hung from the ceiling of a cell and beaten, opposition website Kaleme reported after his death.

Iran has rejected criticism of its human rights record in the past as being political and motivated by Western opposition to the Islamic state. But its leadership has taken action on other allegations of mistreatment of prisoners.

In 2009, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ordered the closure of the notorious Kahrizak detention center following the death in custody of three detainees after they took part in anti-government protests in 2009.

Media is tightly controlled in Iran and blogging has become one of the few outlets for criticizing the state.
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