- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 19, 2009

BEIRUT | An Iranian doctor who went public with reports of tortured protesters he treated at Tehran’s most-feared detention facility has died under mysterious circumstances.

Conflicting reports on the cause of Dr. Ramin Pourandarjani’s death — a heart attack, a car accident and suicide — prompted opposition accusations that the 26-year-old was killed.

Revelations that protesters detained in Iran’s postelection crackdown were tortured, some to death, were a deep embarrassment to the country’s clerical rulers. Dr. Pourandarjani was pressured to change the death certificate of one of the most well-known victims and later spoke to a parliament commission investigating the abuse, opposition Web sites reported.

Much of the abuse took place at a facility known as Kahrizak on Tehran’s outskirts, where Dr. Pourandarjani was the only doctor, serving there once a week as part of his mandatory military service.

Hundreds of protesters and opposition activists were arrested in the crackdown that suppressed protests after the disputed June 12 presidential election. The opposition says at least 69 people were killed while the government has confirmed about 30 deaths.

Dr. Pourandarjani’s death on Nov. 10 was first reported by the opposition Web sites and later confirmed by Iranian authorities.

Hanif Mazroui, a reporter for the opposition news Web site Roozonline, said he was contacted by a doctor earlier this week who told him Dr. Pourandarjani had committed suicide. The doctor later called Mr. Mazroui and said the cause of death was “suspicious, and [authorities] are not making it public,” Mr. Mazroui told the Associated Press.

At first, authorities announced that Dr. Pourandarjani had a heart attack in his sleep. Then they claimed he was poisoned.

The doctor’s father, Reza-Qoli Pourandarjani, said he didn’t believe any of the causes given so far by the government in his son’s death.

“Just the night before his death, my child talked to me on the phone … . He sounded great, very dignified, displaying no sign of someone about to commit suicide,” the senior Mr. Pourandarjani said in a telephone interview.

Dr. Pourandarjani’s body was handed over to the family, and was buried in Tabriz on Sunday, but his father said he never saw the body because he was too grief-stricken.

Several opposition Web sites raised concerns that Dr. Pourandarjani was killed because he knew the conditions of a number of torture victims at Kahrizak, including 24-year-old Mohsen Rouhalamini, the son of a government adviser.

The Kahrizak detention facility was used to keep a large number of detainees during the early days of the mass protests that erupted against the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, which the opposition said was fraudulent. Amid the anger over allegations of torture, supreme leader Ali Khamenei ordered the facility’s closure in July, saying it did not meet standards.

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