The Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has responded to claims that protesters being held in prisons in the country are dying on an almost daily basis -- he ordered the closure of a facility which is located on the southern edge of Tehran.
It is estimated that at least 500 people are still in detention following the demonstrations that were held against the reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and many of them were being held at Kahrizak, the facility now being closed.
Amongst those reported as having once been detained there is 25-year-old Mohsen Rouhalamini, son of Abdolhossein Rouhalamini, a man described as a close ally of defeated Presidential candidate Mohsen Rezai. Mr Rezai was the alternative candidate in the election for conservative voters who were opposed to President Ahmadinejad.
Arrested during a July 9 protest the young man is said to have been taken first to Kahrizak, from where he was transferred to hospital. Two weeks after his arrest the young man died in hospital, with reports on the opposition website Norooz suggesting that when his body was returned to his family there were clear signs of his face having been severely beaten.
With much of the anger that has accompanied Mohsen Rouhalamini's death coming from the ranks of conservative politicians and lawmakers who would not normally be regarded as hostile to the current make-up of the regime in Iran, it may that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's announcement that Kahrizak is to close, he explained its closure as being due to its failure to "preserve the rights of detainees", is in response to the reaction of his traditional supporters.
However, as KansasCity.com reports, a further announcement has been made via the official news agency IRNA, by the commission tasked with reviewing the continuing detention of hundreds of protesters, that conditions in the main prison in the Iranian capital Tehran are to be inspected. According to the BBC conditions at Evin, where the Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi was once held, are deteriorating as authorities there struggle to cope with the large numbers of new prisoners they have received.
There may be no significance whatsoever in the the planned visit to the Evin Prison but the words of the Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani, who instructed the commission on detainees to undertake the inspection, do appear to have a faint whiff of the sentiments expressed by opposition politicians in recent weeks, when they have spoken about those still in prison. Mr Larijani is reported as saying:Justice, equity and Islamic behavior must be followed with all detainees, especially students
Mir-Hossein Mousavi, former prime minster of Iran.
The main opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi does not seem to have much confidence that prison inspections and closures will do a great deal to either improve the conditions of those still being detained or expedite their release. Principally because, as a statement made by him on Monday suggests, he doubts that the authorities know exactly how many people have been arrested since the protests began and where they are all being held. Mr Mousavi's precise words were:All departments from intelligence to Basij say (those who arrested protesters) were not related to them. Where are they from? Have they come from the Mars? Who do believe this? I am sure even the judiciary is not able and has no right to visit many prisons and ask for details
Plans by the opposition to hold a "silent memorial ceremony" on Thursday for those who have died during the protests or have died later, as a consequence of their participation in the protests, remain in doubt. The permit necessary to hold the ceremony has not yet been issued by the authorities, indeed they are said to have made no response to the request for a permit, and should the event proceed without permission it may lead to another face-off between opposition supporters and the police.
Whatever the true reason for the sudden interest in the welfare of the detainees amongst the Iranian leadership, if families who have faced weeks of unimaginable worry eventually find themselves reunited with their loved ones it will surely represent a victory of some kind for democracy.