Toronto Star

3,700 protesters arrested throughout Iran, lawmaker says

Activists worry that prisoners may be tortured or abused, pointing to 2009 mass arrests


DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES— Iranian security forces arrested some 3,700 people during widespread protests and unrest over the past two weeks, a lawmaker said Tuesday, offering a far higher number than authoritie­s pre- viously released.

The demonstrat­ions, which began Dec. 28 over economic grievances, quickly spread across the country to become the largest seen in Iran since the disputed 2009 presidenti­al election. Some protesters called for the overthrow of the government, and at least 21 people were killed in clashes.

Human rights activists outside of Iran told The Associated Press they weren’t surprised by the figure as authoritie­s also allegedly carried out so-called “preventati­ve arrests” of students not involved in the protests. Some 4,000 arrests followed the 2009 protests.

Activists also said they had concerns about Iran’s prisons and jails being overcrowde­d and dangerous, pointing to allegation­s of torture, abuse and deaths that followed the mass arrests of 2009.

The New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran says at least three detainees arrested in the re- cent protests have already died in custody.

“Given the systematic rape and torture of detainees in 2009 in very overcrowde­d and inhumane conditions, we are extremely worried about the fate of these thousands of detainees and the lack of informatio­n and access by their families and lawyers,” said Hadi Ghaemi, the executive director of the centre. “It is a very troubling situation.”

Mahmoud Sadeghi, a reformist lawmaker from Tehran, offered the new figures for those arrested in a report carried Tuesday by parliament’s official news website. Authoritie­s previously spoke of hundreds of arrests in Tehran, while other provinces offered only piecemeal figures, if any at all.

Sadeghi said 3,700 was the best number he could immediatel­y offer, given that various security forces around the country had been involved in the arrests.

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