TEHRAN (Reuters) - Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has ordered the closure of the Kahrizak detention center where detainees are believed to have been held since Iran’s disputed presidential election.
The order is regarded as a move to calm simmering discontent among leading moderates and their supporters, particularly when the clerical establishment faces rifts over President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s appointment of his first vice-president.
Lawmaker Kazem Jalali said 140 detainees were released from Evin prison after members of a parliamentary committee visited the prison on Tuesday, ISNA reported. “Those with minor charges have been released on bail,” said Jalali.
The semi-official Mehr news agency quoted Jalali as saying the detention center was ordered closed because it could not preserve the “rights of detainees.”
Reformist websites have reported some detainees involved in protests following the June 12 election were being held at Kahrizak under “severe physical and mental pressure.”
“Kahrizak is the detention center which the leader ordered closed because it lacked necessary conditions to preserve rights of detainees,” said Jalali, spokesman of a special parliamentary committee set up to investigate detentions after the election.
Jalabi said 150 people who were involved in post-election protests and 50 others, including political activists, members of anti-revolution groups and some foreigners, remained in jail following the releases from Evin.
Rights groups say hundreds of people, including senior pro-reform politicians, journalists, activists and lawyers, have been detained since the election.
It was not clear if detainees at Kahrizak had been released or transferred to another detention center.
A relative of women’s rights defender Shadi Sadr said she had been released on Tuesday. The activist was detained by plainclothes agents on July 17.
The presidential vote plunged Iran into its biggest internal crisis since the 1979 Islamic revolution and exposed deepening divisions in its ruling elite.
Khamenei, Iran’s most powerful figure, has endorsed the re-election of hardline Ahmadinejad. Defeated moderate candidates Mirhossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi say the vote was rigged in his favor.
Iranian media have reported several protesters’ deaths following the vote.
Mousavi and Karoubi’s call on the interior ministry for a commemoration ceremony on Thursday for victims of the unrests was rejected by the authorities on Tuesday, the semi-official Fars news agency reported.
Tehran Prisons Organization chief Sohrab Soleimani denied there had been any mistreatment of detainees.
“No inhumane and immoral behavior has been carried out in Tehran prisons. There are no solitary confinements in Evin,” the Etemad newspaper on Tuesday quoted Soleimani as saying. The Tehran prison is where many political prisoners are held.
Iran’s top judge Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi-Shahroudi ordered the judiciary on Monday to re-examine the cases of moderate detainees in a week.
The daily also said the judge had ordered all “prisons and detention centers” to be visited by his envoys.
Jalali said members of the committee would visit Evin on Tuesday. “We are unlikely to visit Kahrizak because it has been closed,” he said.
Relatives of detained leading pro-reformers have expressed concerns over the fate of their loved ones.
“It has been more than 40 days that they have not had any contact with the outside world ... you are responsible for the health of our loved ones,” the daily quoted a letter addressed to Shahroudi by wives of two detained prominent reformists.
Mostafa Tajzadeh, former deputy interior minister, and Behzad Nabavi, former industry minister, were detained shortly after the vote.
Khamanei ordered the president last week to dismiss Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie as first vice-president because he said Iran was friends with the people of arch-foe Israel.
The president remained defiant until Saturday when he dismissed Mashaie, to whom he is related by marriage.
Writing by Parisa Hafezi, Editing by Robert Woodward