- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 3, 2008


TEHRAN — The death of a student in the custody of Iranian intelligence officers has provoked outrage among opponents of the regime, who say it is part of a concerted crackdown on dissidents in the run-up to parliamentary elections.

Ebrahim Lotf-Allahi, a fourth-year law student, was buried before his family could see his body. They later discovered that the grave had been filled with cement, apparently to prevent his body from being exhumed.

Student leaders say that 150 students have been arrested so far this year and 60 remain in prison.

Authorities said that Mr. Lotf-Allahi committed suicide on Jan. 15 after he was arrested in the Kurdish city of Sanandaj, but his is the second suspicious death in custody in the city recently.

In December, a young doctor, Zahra Bani Yaghoub, died after she was arrested for walking with a man to whom she was not related. Her family say bruises on her body suggested she had been beaten in custody.

Sources in Sanandaj said Mr. Lotf-Allahi was picked up as he left his university’s examination hall and that when his family went to arrange for him to be released, they were told he had committed suicide.

His death has angered student activists, who say it is part of a campaign to suppress dissent before the March elections. They say students in the Kurdish part of the country, including Sanandaj, have borne the brunt of the crackdown.

Ali Nikoo-Nesbati, a student who was released in December after 35 days in solitary confinement, said officials had targeted minorities, including the Kurdish population, who were trying to stand up for their rights.

“When you are in custody, your life must be secured by the government — and no one accepts that Lotf-Allahi committed suicide,” he said.

Last month, it emerged that about 2,000 of the 2,500 reformist candidates had been barred from participating in the election.

The National Trust Party, headed by Ayatollah Karoubi, had 230 out of its 300 applications rejected. Saeed Shariati, a spokesman for the Islamic Participation Front, said 85 percent of its candidates had been disqualified “for unbelievable reasons.”

Gethin Chamberlain in London contributed to this article.

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