April 20, 2014 – Chicago Tribune – DUBAI (Reuters) – Families of Iranian prisoners charged with political offences demonstrated outside parliament in Tehran on Sunday to protest at what they said was violent treatment of their relatives at the Evin prison, the Iranian Students’ News Agency reported.
Family members holding pictures of the prisoners said more than 20 of their relatives were hurt in clashes with security guards on April 17, according to Kaleme, a website linked to opposition leaders Mirhossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi.
It is unusual for families to gather outside parliament to complain about alleged abuses of their relatives, although such protests have been held outside Evin itself in the past.
The disturbances at the prison’s so-called Ward 350 – where detainees facing political charges are normally held – began after prisoners refused to leave their cells during a routine security check, Kaleme has said.
The prisoners are among hundreds rounded up during mass demonstrations by reformists protesting against the disputed re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in presidential elections in 2009, in the worst unrest since the 1979 Islamic revolution.
Moderate parliamentarian Ali Mottahari, a strong opponent of Ahmadinejad, who was succeeded as president by centrist Hassan Rouhani in elections last year, attended Sunday’s demonstration and said he would raise the issue in parliament.
“These families asked for our help and we will try our best to help them and we will raise this issue in the parliament,” ISNA quoted Mottahari as saying.
Mottahari, referring to the 2009 protests, said: “It wasn’t necessary to imprison people for six to eight years because of one demonstration. If we had solved this issue sooner, we wouldn’t be here today.”
ISNA cited the families as saying that they had been denied visitation rights this week.
Justice Minister Mostafa Pourmohammadi downplayed the April 17 disturbances, saying “nothing of note” had happened. He said prison guards had carried out routine inspections that day due to security problems in Ward 350, according to official state news agency IRNA.
Human rights organization Amnesty International has reported that 32 detainees were placed in solitary confinement as a result of the unrest.
(Reporting By Michelle Moghtader, Editing by William Maclean)