Iran accused of ‘stealing bodies from morgues’ to downplay protest toll

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Authorities in Iran have been accused of stealing bodies from morgues and spiriting away injured patients from hospitals in order to downplay the scale of the crackdown on recent protests, a UK newspaper reported on Saturday.

Exiled Iranian opposition group Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK) claims the regime is secretly disposing of bodies from morgues, reported The Telegraph.

According to the report, one of the first to be injured when the protests broke out was Mehdi Nekouee, a 20-year-old law student from the city of Shiraz. He was shot by the Revolutionary Guard but has not been seen since.

His uncle Ahmed told The Telegraph that “he was critical but alive when he arrived at hospital... we have heard nothing since.”

His family now believes that Mehdi, instead of being treated in a hospital, been taken away by the intelligence services.

A nurse at the hospital confirmed that Mehdi had indeed been treated before he was removed, along with several other patients, but she didn't know where to, The Telegraph reported.

Protests began in several areas on November 15 after the government announced gasoline price hikes of at least 50 percent and imposed rationing. The unrest, which turned violent, spread to at least 100 towns and cities as demonstrators demanded senior officials step down.

Amnesty International meanwhile has updated the death toll to 115 from 106. Iran rejected the death toll figures as “speculative having claimed earlier this week that the figure is as low as 12.

United Nations officials also fear that 'a significant number of people' may have been killed.

Meanwhile, police said 180 “ringleaders” of the unrest had been detained by its agents across the country, state television reported on Saturday. On Friday the judiciary said the Revolutionary Guards had arrested about 100 leaders of protests.

About 1,000 demonstrators have been arrested, Iranian media said nearly a week ago.

The Center for Human Rights in Iran, a New York-based advocacy group, said on its website that a tally based on official figures and credible reports suggested that “a minimum of 2,755 people have been arrested with the actual minimum number likely being closer to 4,000.”

Iranian troops and members of the elite Revolutionary Guards helped police quell violent unrest in Kermanshah province this week, Iranian officials said on Saturday.

Rights group Amnesty International said at least 30 people were killed in Kermanshah, making it the worst-hit by the protests.

- With agencies