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Iran judge vows no cover-up of police failings in July unrest

TEHRAN, March 7 (AFP) - A Tehran military court judge vowed Tuesday there would be no cover-up of any wrong-doing by police during the storming of a student dorm last July which sparked the worst unrest here since the aftermath of the 1979 revolution.

"This court is going to punish any offences committed by police whether they were in uniform or plainclothes," pledged Hojatoleslam Ahmad Tabatabai on the third day of a court-martial of 20 officers accused of exceeding their orders in the violent police action.

"We will see to it that no special pleading gets in the way of the victims winning redress," the senior cleric promised.

On Tuesday the court heard evidence from disgraced former Tehran police chief Brigadier Farhad Nazari, the most senior of the officers on trial, who is accused of personally ordering in the police and members of a special squad known as NOPO, controlled by Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Nazari denied the accusations against him and his men.

"I did not give the order to attack the dormitory," he said. "I am very upset about what happened."

The sacked police chief is accused of overruling an order from the interior ministry not to intervene in the protest against the closure of a pro-reform newspaper and to have disobeyed an order not to use teargas.

Also giving evidence Tuesday was the head of the campus residence where the police assault took place, Mohammad Kazem Kuhi, who charged that the action had been unnecessary.

"If the police had delayed their assault by just five minutes, these events would not have happened," he told the hearing, which was attended by some 300 people including a dozen students who claim to have been injured in the action.

Three people were killed in Tehran and the northwestern city of Tabriz in the six days of unrest which followed the police action, according to an official tally.

A total of 1,500 demonstrators were arrested in the capital. Dozens have already been brought before the courts and a death sentence has been confirmed on one of their alleged ringleaders, Akbar Mohammadi, who claimed last week that he had been tortured since his arrest.

The judge ordered another senior police commander Mir Ahmadai to give evidence at the next hearing in the court-martial Thursday.


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