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Speaker rejects claims of abuse against vote detainees

The speaker of Iran's parliament rejects accusations that moderates have been raped in jail following their detention in unrest linked to June's disputed presidential poll.

TEHRAN // The speaker of Iran's parliament today rejected as "baseless" an opposition leader's accusation that moderates had been raped in jail following their detention in unrest linked to June's disputed presidential poll. "Based on parliament's investigations, detainees have not been raped or sexually abused in Iran's Kahrizak and Evin prisons. Such claims are totally baseless," Iran's state television quoted Ali Larijani as saying.

Mehdi Karoubi, a defeated moderate candidate, said some protesters, both men and women, had been raped in prison. Many of the post-election detainees were held in south Tehran's Kahrizak prison, built to house people breaching vice laws. At least three people died in custody there. A committee set up by Mr Karoubi and Mir Hossein Mousavi to pursue the issue submitted a list of 69 people killed in protests to parliament on Monday. The list contradicted the official figure of 26 deaths.

Mohsen Rezaie, the defeated conservative presidential candidate, said officials in charge should be put on trial. "If reports about the mistreatment and abuses of detainees and protesters are proved, all officials in charge should at least be sacked and tried in court," Mr Rezaie was quoted by the semi-official ILNA news agency as saying. "And a day of national mourning should be declared." Amnesty International urged Iran to allow international observers to monitor the trials of more than 100 people accused of involvement in the protests that followed the election.

"The trial now going on in Tehran appears to be nothing but a show trial through which the supreme leader and those around him seek to de-legitimise recent mass and largely peaceful protests and convince a very sceptical world that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was re-elected fairly for a second term as president," said Irene Khan, Amnesty's secretary general. Washington, its European allies and leading Iranian reformers have rejected the mass trials as a "show".

The fallout from the post-election unrest further cloud prospects of Iran accepting US President Barack Obama's offer of direct talks on Iran's nuclear programme. In the second mass trial to open within a week, on Saturday a court charged a French woman, two Iranian staffers at the British and French embassies and dozens of senior moderates with spying and plotting to overthrow clerical rule. The French embassy agreed to provide bail to secure the release of the French woman, the teaching assistant Clotilde Reiss, official news agency IRNA reported yesterday. However, authorities said she would not be allowed to leave the country.

Last month, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ordered the closure of the "substandard" detention centre at Kahrizak. Iranian authorities have acknowledged some protesters were tortured there and said its director had been jailed. Mr Larijani called on Mr Karoubi to submit to parliament evidence for his rape allegations. Parliament's reformist minority also asked detainees to report cases of abuse, ILNA reported.

The hardline Kayhan daily urged the judiciary to arrest Mr Karoubi if his charges were proved to be wrong. "If Karoubi cannot prove the allegations then he should be punished without any consideration," said Hossein Shariatmadari, chief editor of the daily, who is appointed by Ayatollah Khamenei. The opposition says the election was rigged, a charge denied by Iranian authorities, including Ayatollah Khamenei, who has accused western powers of fomenting the unrest.

State radio said 215 of Iran's 290 lawmakers urged Mr Ahmadinejad to reconsider ties with the United States, France and Britain for their "interference" in Iran's state matters. The abuse allegations have divided hardline politicians, many of whom backed Mr Ahmadinejad's re-election. A hardline politician said Mr Ahmadinejad was to be blamed for any possible mistreatment in prisons, adding, "If we suppress people we will be destroying the system with our own hands."

"We should investigate crimes against detainees and the key responsibility is with two people: the president and the judiciary chief," said Ahmad Tavakkoli, who supported Mr Ahmadinejad's first-term presidency, Iranian media reported. Another hardline politician criticised harsh methods used by security forces over the unrest. Some 4,000 people were arrested and at least 200 people remain in jail, including activists, senior moderate politicians, lawyers and journalists.

"Some extreme measures were taken by security forces when dealing with protesters," Ali Motahari told the Etemad-e Melli newspaper. * Reuters