Iran: mother of dead blogger attacked while mourning son at his graveside

  • Sattar Beheshti died in “Cyber Police” detention facility

The mother of an Iranian blogger who died in custody last month was attacked by security forces as she mourned at her son’s graveside on Thursday (13 Dec), prompting Amnesty International to renew its call for a thorough and impartial investigation into the 35-year-old’s death.

Beheshti died in the “Cyber Police” detention facility on 3 November after being arrested on suspicion of "acting against the national security" because of his online activities on social networking sites. He was later buried on 7 November. 

As the family and friends of Beheshti marked 40 days since his death – the end of the traditional mourning period for the deceased, eyewitnesses report that security forces attacked mourners, with one of them dragging Sattar Beheshti's mother on the ground by her hair.

The attack came amid ongoing harassment of the blogger’s family members and concerns about the independence of investigations into his death.

Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa programme Deputy Director Ann Harrison said:

“What is especially devastating for Sattar Beheshti’s family is that even though their traditional mourning period has come to an end, there are still many unanswered questions about how and why he died while in the custody of the Cyber Police.

“The Iranian authorities must ensure that the ongoing investigations into the incident – and all other deaths in custody – are thorough, impartial and in line with international human rights law and standards, leading to those responsible being brought to justice. Intimidation and attacks against Sattar Beheshti’s family must not be tolerated.”

On 27 November, Iran’s police chief, Brigadier General Esma'il Ahmadi-Moghaddam, accepted partial responsibility for Beheshti’s death in custody.

The head of Iran’s Cyber Police was subsequently removed from his position, but a member of the parliamentary National Security and Foreign Policy Commission later denied the removal had anything to do with the blogger’s death.

Family members have also been threatened with arrest if they speak to the media about the case. The family’s lawyer has expressed concern that the case – which is currently the subject of  a criminal investigation by the Prosecutor’s Office – may not go to court.

Ann Harrison added:

“It is very troubling that Sattar Beheshti’s family members appear to be under pressure not to demand their right to justice over this fatal incident.

“In addition to bringing charges against anyone responsible for torture or for causing his death, without imposing the death penalty, the authorities must not block this – or any other’s family’s – right to access justice.”

Amnesty has repeatedly raised concerns about torture and other ill-treatment of detainees in Iran, including cases where deaths in custody appear to have resulted from such treatment.

Background

Following his arrest on 30 October at his home in Robat Karim, Beheshti’s family had no further contact with him until 6 November when they received a telephone call telling them to collect his body from Kahrizak detention centre.

Before being transferred to the Cyber Police detention centre, Beheshti had been held for one night in Section 350 of Tehran’s Evin Prison. While there, he lodged a complaint with the Evin Prison authorities claiming that his interrogators had tortured him after his arrest.

Fellow prisoners at Evin Prison later wrote an open letter corroborating that allegation, saying they had seen torture marks on his body.

The Iranian Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission and the Judiciary’s High Commission for Human Rights have both launched investigations into the incident.

But various judicial officials and parliamentarians have given contradictory explanations for the blogger’s death even before the investigations have been completed, raising serious concerns about their impartiality, independence and transparency.

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