Sattar Beheshti, Iranian opposition blogger, dies days after arrest


An Iranian protester with his face covered by a green mask flashes the victory sign as he holds stones during clashes in central Tehran Dec. 27, 2009. A senior Iranian police official denied a report on an opposition website that four pro-reform protesters were killed during clashes in Tehran on Sunday, the Students News Agency ISNA reported. (Reuters)

Iranian activist blogger Sattar Beheshti, 35, has mysteriously died days after he was imprisoned in the infamous Evin prison, where many opposition activists are held, reported Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

The reason for his death was not immediately clear, but local reports suggested he was tortured beforehand.

“Political prisoners in Section 350 of Evin Prison, where Beheshti spent one night, said his body had been crushed under torture and that there wasn’t a healthy spot on his body,” Iran's opposition-tied Kalame newspaper reported, according to RFE/RL

Beheshti's family was told to pick up his body Wednesday, said The Guardian, noting that government officials oversaw his burial and only allowed one family member present.

Burial ceremonies are highly emotional and often very public affairs in Iran, where they have sparked protests against the government in the past. Reporters Without Borders said Beheshti's family was told the body had to be buried quickly and in secret. 

Beheshti was recently arrested and accused of working "against national security on social networks and Facebook," said BBC. Many online activists have been arrested on similar charges in Iran, where such dissent is not tolerated. 

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RFE/RL said Beheshti was not a huge name in the opposition blogosphere, describing him as "a simple worker and the breadwinner for his family."

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) today denounced the case as an "egregious example of the triumph of impunity” in Iran, calling on authorities to "clarify the exact circumstances of the netizen's death."

The opposition has accused the Iranian government of torturing Beheshti to death, according to The Guardian. The United Nations' rapporteur on human rights in Iran, Ahmed Shaheed, should personally investigate the matter, insisted RSF

Beheshti had reportedly been warned over his activities. "They threatened me yesterday that my mother would wear black because I don't shut my mouth," The Guardian quoted Beheshti as blogging before his death.  

"I told them [the officials] that I only write what I see and what I hear, but they responded that they would do everything they can to shut me up, to stop me from spreading news," Beheshti said, according to The Guardian.

"They said they will shut me up in a way that no name or sign would remain of me."