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Iran judiciary rejects Opposition rape allegations

A high-level Iranian judicial panel rejected claims made by a pro-reform presidential candidate that detained protesters were raped and demanded those making the allegations be prosecuted, the state news agency said.

world Updated: Sep 14, 2009 11:28 IST

A high-level Iranian judicial panel rejected claims made by a pro-reform presidential candidate that detained protesters were raped and demanded those making the allegations be prosecuted, the state news agency said on Saturday.

The ruling ratchets up the pressure on Mahdi Karroubi, one of the most prominent reformist leaders challenging the legitimacy of the president's re-election and the entire governing system. The decision could well be a prelude to his own arrest, following earlier calls by conservative religious and security officials for his prosecution.

"The panel reached the conclusion that there is no evidence proving the rape of individuals who Karroubi claimed had been raped. These allegations are unsubstantiated ... and documents submitted are totally fabricated and aimed at misleading public opinion," the report said.

The three-member panel, which included the top prosecutor and the deputy head of the judiciary, demanded prosecution of those "spreading lies, libel ... and discrediting the ruling system" by making such allegations an indirect reference to Karroubi himself. The Supreme National Security Council, Iran's top security decision-making body, also on Saturday banned the media from publishing any reports about Karroubi and fellow reformist leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, suggesting an intensification of the efforts to silence them.

The panel's decision also comes a day after Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned the country's reformist opposition that it would face a "harsh response" for confronting the ruling system.

Karroubi has said he received reports from former military commanders and freed prisoners that male and female detainees were savagely raped by their jailers to the point of physical and mental damage.

The former parliamentary speaker has also revealed several abuse cases in a challenge to the country's leadership, which has sought to silence such claims in the postelection crackdown. On Tuesday, security forces raided Karroubi's office and shut down his party, the National Confidence Party, and arrested a number of his aides who had been taking testimony of abuse from released protesters.

The abuse allegations have been deeply embarrassing for the Iranian government and the clerical leadership, amid reports that several detainees were tortured to death.

The opposition claims the June 12 election was heavily rigged in Ahmadinejad's favor and that pro-reform challenger Mir Hossein Mousavi was the true winner.

Karroubi and Mousavi have dismissed Ahmadinejad's government as "illegitimate" and vowed to confront the ruling system over the alleged massive vote fraud.

The opposition says at least 72 protesters were killed while Iranian officials have said 36 people died in the postelection turmoil Iran's worst unrest since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. About 200 protesters and opposition figures remain in detention. Khamenei, who has publicly supported Ahmadinejad over the election, and other hard-liners have attempted to paint the postelection turmoil as a plot by Iran's foreign enemies to overthrow the country's Islamic system through a "velvet revolution."

The government is holding a mass trial of more than 100 detained political activists and protesters who it claims provoked the mass demonstrations.

The Opposition counters that the entire ruling system beyond just Ahmadinejad's elected government is losing its religious and political legitimacy because of the harshness of the postelection crackdown.

Karroubi said in remarks published Saturday that he believes founder of the 1979 Islamic Republic the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini would have scrapped the results of the June presidential elections if he were alive.

Italian daily La Stampa also quoted him as saying that Khomeini would condemned the "violence and murders" carried out by agents of the ruling system in the postelection turmoil.