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Iran says reformist to be released

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iranian authorities will release reformist Saeed Hajjarian on Wednesday, the judiciary said, more than six weeks after he was detained with hundreds of others after Iran’s disputed presidential election.

File photo of Saeed Hajjarian. CJF/JDP

If it takes place, Hajjarian’s release would be the latest reflection of unease among some senior officials about reports of harsh treatment of some of those held since the election. At least two young detainees have died in custody.

“Political activist Hajjarian, who was arrested in post-election unrest, will be released today,” the judiciary said in a statement. “His release takes place based on recent orders by the judiciary chief.”

Iran’s top judge, Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi-Shahroudi, told the judiciary on Monday to review the cases of people still held after the June 12 vote, which tipped Iran into its worst internal crisis in 30 years and exposed rifts in its ruling elite.

Hajjarian’s lawyer was quoted by the student news agency ISNA as saying his client had not been released yet.

Hajjarian, a disabled 55-year-old, is an ally of former premier Mirhossein Mousavi, a moderate who says he lost the election because it was rigged in favor of hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The authorities deny the charge and Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has endorsed Ahmadinejad’s re-election.

INTERNATIONAL CONCERN

On Tuesday, the New York-based Human Rights Watch group called for Hajjarian’s immediate release, saying he had been held without access to a lawyer or proper medical attention.

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It said his poor health had deteriorated in detention from harsh treatment, including interrogation under a hot sun.

“We believe his life is in danger. He should be freed immediately,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch.

The group said Hajjarian had been detained without charge on June 15 and was one of scores of prominent reformist politicians, intellectuals, journalists, clerics, student leaders and others whom the authorities arrested in an effort to stamp out nationwide protests against the election result.

The official IRNA news agency said on Wednesday “those behind the unrest will be tried soon.” It did not give any source.

Kazem Jalali, spokesman of a special parliamentary committee set up to investigate the post-election detentions, told reporters on Wednesday at least 250 people were still held.

“Two hundred of the detainees are street protesters and 50 others are political figures. Until their verdicts are issued, this committee cannot make any judgments about their cases.

“Based on what the judiciary has said, there are no cases of missing people,” the state news agency IRNA quoted Jalali as saying after what he said was a six-hour visit by the committee to Tehran’s Evin prison. “Detainees had no complaints about their conditions in Evin,” Jalali added.

On Tuesday, Khamenei ordered the closure of Tehran’s Kahrizak center where other detainees were believed to have been held since the election. The same day, Jalali said 140 detainees held on minor charges were released on bail from Evin prison.

Hajjarian, a senior intelligence official in the 1980s, became a strategist in the reformist movement in the 1990s and a political adviser to then-President Mohammed Khatami in 1997.

His newspaper, Sobh-e Emrooz (Today’s Morning), helped expose the role of Iran’s Intelligence Ministry in a series of killings and disappearances of leading intellectuals in the late 1990s.

In March 2000, when Hajjarian was a member of the Tehran city council, a gunman on a motorcycle shot him in the face outside the council building. He survived, but is now confined mostly to a wheelchair, and needs constant medical care.

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