Iran judiciary denies protester torture claims

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Iran’s general prosecutor on Monday denied claims by a labor protest leader that he was tortured in prison following strikes at a sugar factory, state TV reported.

“News of a Haft Tapeh sugar factory worker being tortured is an outright lie and no harm or torture has happened,” Mohammad Jafar Montazeri was quoted as saying.

“The individual who claims he has been tortured did this with a political purpose and a certain agenda,” he added

The denial followed claims by Esmail Bakhshi, published on his Instagram account earlier this month and later picked up 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 the city of Shush over unpaid wages and alleged criminal activity by new private owners.

The prosecutor hinted that Bakhshi had “connections” to opposition groups and said that a judiciary committee tasked with investigating his claims had provided a “comprehensive” report refuting them.

A separate parliamentary investigation into Bakhshi’s claims has yet to reveal its official findings.

Montazeri added that state bodies had pressed charges against Bakhshi for allegedly slandering Iran’s intelligence, security and judicial authorities.

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

Iran saw multiple strikes and protests last year over working conditions in key sectors including steel, education, mining and transport.

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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