Iran parliament to probe death of opposition blogger Sattari Beheshti


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)

Protest over the mysterious death of Iranian opposition blogger Sattar Beheshti has an Iranian parliamentary committee investigating, according to an announcement today from deputy parliamentary speaker Mohammad Hasan Abutorabifard, reported BBC News.

The committee on national security and foreign policy will examine the case and "report" back to the nation, BBC quoted Abutorabifard as telling local reporters in Tehran today. 

Beheshti's recent death while in custody has raised serious questions both home and abroad, with Iranian parliamentarian Ahmad Tavakoli earlier asking lawmakers, "Why do the foreign ministry and judiciary not explain this? A death has happened and it should be explained," reported Agence-France Press, citing local press. 

The 35-year-old blogger was reported dead on Thursday, days after he was imprisoned on charges 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. 

The reason for his death was not clear, and local reports suggested he was tortured beforehand, sparking outcry from activists and rights groups.

“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 Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

US state department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland on Friday said America supports "the international community in demanding the Iranian government investigate this murder, hold accountable those responsible for Beheshti's arrest, torture and killing, and immediately cease all reported harassment of Beheshti's family," according to BBC

France said it was "profoundly shocked" by accounts of Beheshti's death, with the foreign ministry urging "the Iranian authorities to shed as much light as possible on the circumstances of his death," reported AFP

Beheshti's family was informed on November 6. The Guardian said they were told to pick up his body from the local coroner's office on Wednesday, but government officials oversaw his burial and only allowed one family member present. (Burial ceremonies in Iran have sparked protests against the government in the past.)

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

Nevertheless, his death has generated a storm of outcry from human rights groups as well as the country's embattled opposition movement, which has accused the Iranian government of torturing the blogger to death, according to The Guardian

Beheshti was harassed in the days leading up to his death. "They threatened me yesterday that my mother would wear black because I don't shut my mouth," The Guardian quoted Beheshti as blogging shortly before his death was announced.  

"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."