Iran MPs to investigate protester torture claims

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Iran’s parliament will investigate claims by a labor protest leader that he was tortured in prison following strikes at a sugar factory, the semi-official ISNA news agency reported on Sunday.

Alireza Rahimi, a member of parliament’s presiding board, said his request for an investigation had been accepted by speaker Ali Larijani, according to ISNA.

It followed claims by Esmail Bakhshi, written on his Instagram account and reported by the reformist Etemad newspaper, that he was tortured during 25 days in detention in southwestern Khuzestan province late last year.

Bakhshi was one of the organizers of weeks-long protests at the Haft Tapeh sugar factory in Shush over unpaid wages and alleged criminal activity by new private owners.

Ali Motahari, an outspoken member of parliament, wrote a column in Etemad on Sunday titled “Source of shame”, demanding answers from the intelligence ministry.

The governor of Khuzestan, Gholamreza Shariati, denied Bakhshi’s claims.

“I checked with the relevant bodies and the claim of torture was strongly denied,” he told the Jamaran news site.

Rahimi said Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi will attend the commission hearings in parliament, according to ISNA.

Earlier, Bakhshi sent a letter to Iran’s Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi, calling him for a challenge in a live TV debate.

Bakhshi wrote: “They used to curse me and Mrs. Kulian all kind of dirty curses and they beat me up.”

He added that: “The blows that have been inflicted on me during torture have made me take psychiatric medication and tranquilizers, and in some cases I have suffered severe neurological and psychological attacks.”

He also said all his phone conversations with his wife during his detention, were tapped.

The strike at Haft Tapeh, which has around 4,000 workers, largely ended in December after the workers received their wages.

Iran has been hit by strikes over working conditions in several key sectors this year, including education, mines, transport and the steel industry, mainly outside Tehran.

In November the head of Iran’s judiciary warned restive workers against creating “disorder”.

“Workers should not allow their demands to become an excuse and an instrument for the enemy,” Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani said, quoted by the judiciary’s news agency Mizan Online.

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