Iranian authorities accused of covering up plight of Christians in notorious prison

Authorities in Iran have been accused of covering up the real situation of Christians inside a notorious prison in Tehran when a special delegation of MPs visited the facility to investigate the allegations of detainees being killed while in custody.

(REUTERS / Morteza Nikoubazl)A female prison guard stands along a corridor in Tehran's Evin prison June 13, 2006.

Iranian authorities were criticized by Mohammad Kazemi, the deputy head of parliament's Judicial and Legal Commission, after an unusually large number of intelligence and security troops was sent to Evin Prison during the special visit of 11 MPs on Jan. 30. Judiciary officials had declared that the reports of detainees being killed inside the facility were baseless, Radio Farda detailed.

"The presence of officers at a prison is not unusual, but there were so many of them present at the time we were visiting Evin," Kazemi explained on Jan. 31. "It would have been better if they'd stayed away since we had to talk to the detainees in private."

He added: "The number of officers were far more than the number of visiting MPs, and that was not acceptable."

The special delegation was reportedly able to talk to only four out of the six detainees apprehended during the recent nationwide protests. Intelligence officers were also present during their interviews.

One of those arrested in the anti-government protests, Sina Ghanbari, 22, died in custody. Prison authorities said he had killed himself, but human rights campaigners claimed intelligence agents had beaten him to death during an interrogation.

Kazemi said Ghanbari's death is now being reviewed by a court in Tehran.

Iran Focus said the visit aimed to conceal the crimes that authorities carried out against the detainees. The publication also said it was likely the prisoners had been intimidated into withholding information about their real situation inside the facility.

News about the visit surfaced after a detainee named Khaled Qaisari reportedly died in  Kermanshah Prison in the western region after being tortured. Around 12 people arrested in the recent uprisings have allegedly died because of torture.

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