Iran police torture case heightens political tensions
TEHRAN, March 7 (AFP) - The head of security affairs for the Iranian
police is to be tried for torture in a case that has further heightened
simmering political tensions between reformers and hardliners in the Islamic
General Mohammad-Reza Naghdi and 10 other officers will be tried in
a military court on May 3 on charges of beating and torturing top officials
in the Tehran municipal government, it was announced last week.
Naghdi has denied the charges but the scandal is the latest blow to
the battered image of Iran's security forces following the shock announcement
that "rogue" intelligence agents were involved in the murder
of several prominent dissidents and intellectuals late last year.
"We never tortured anyone and these municipal officials are merely
trying to launch a propaganda campaign," Naghdi told reporters.
But the Iran newspaper on Saturday said the nine men had been "blindfolded,
battered, tortured and humiliated," adding they were held at an "illegal
detention centre" in separate cells without windows or light.
The spectacular case has highlighted the rift between reformers close
to moderate President Mohammad Khatami and hardliners in the regime who
control Iran's security and judicial bodies.
"This is simply a political campaign against the police and the
judiciary. But these crocodile tears will surely have no effect on the
course of justice," Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi, head of Iran's powerful
judiciary, said recently.
The police are not under direct governmental control and are ultimately
under the command of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the nation's supreme religious
Interior Minister Abdol-Vahed Mussavi-Lari, a moderate close to the
president, has only interim supervision of the police force at the behest
The Tehran officials' charges came to light last year when the nine
men revealed the accusations to moderate MPs close to Khatami.
The nine men, including two of the capital's district mayors, had been
arrested on corruption charges during the investigation of former Tehran
mayor Gholamhossein Karbaschi.
The men, including two of the capital's district mayors, went public
with their torture accusations right in the midst of Karbaschi's trial.
Karbaschi, who is also close to the president, was convicted of misappropriating
public funds and his case is currently under appeal at the supreme court.
But the pro-reform mayor has repeatedly claimed the case was a political
set-up and his trial was a flashpoint for angry disputes between hardliners
The torture accusations are not the first time General Naghdi has found
himself under intenese public scrutiny.
The Zan (Woman) newspaper, headed by the daughter of former president
Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, last year accused the general of attacking two
of the government's leading moderates, Culture Minister Ataollah Mohajerani
and Vice President Abdollah Nuri.
A court found the charges baseless and suspended publication of the
paper for two weeks last year.