Mystery surrounds Iranian military doctor's cause of death

By Thomas Erdbrink
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 18, 2009 12:33 PM

TEHRAN -- Iran's national police chief, contradicting earlier accounts, asserted that a military doctor who reportedly testified about the abuse of detained protesters committed suicide last week, state-run news media reported Wednesday.

Police commander Esmail Ahmadi-Moghaddam indicated that the doctor, Ramin Pourandarjani, 26, took his life after being accused of an unspecified crime in connection with his service at the controversial Kahrizak prison, where he treated anti-government demonstrators who had been rounded up in a crackdown on the opposition following Iran's disputed June 12 presidential election. At least three protesters died at the prison under suspicious circumstances, Iranian media have reported.

The top police official contradicted earlier statements by authorities who said Pourandarjani died in his sleep of a heart attack at the Tehran police medical center, where he was finishing 19 months of required military service.

Anti-government Web sites accused authorities of a coverup and quoted friends of the young doctor as saying he was a witness in a parliamentary inquiry into alleged police misconduct at the Kahrizak facility.

But in an interview published Wednesday by the official Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), Ahmadi-Moghaddam suggested that Pourandarjani was a suspect, rather than a witness.

"The doctor had complaints of being threatened with a five-year jail term and had lost his spirit," the police chief said, referring to a will that Pourandarjani purportedly wrote. "He committed suicide after he was summoned to the court." Ahmadi-Moghaddam, a former commander of the pro-government Basij militia, did not elaborate on Pourandarjani's alleged offense.

A member of parliament's health committee expressed doubt Tuesday that the young doctor died of a heart attack and called for a coroner's inquiry.

A parliamentary committee formed to look into Iran's post-election violence plans to issue a report soon on the Kahrizak prison, IRNA reported Tuesday. The makeshift detention center was closed in July on the orders of Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, after numerous complaints of substandard conditions.

Among the three protesters who died in the prison was Mohsen Rouholamini, the son of a former senior Health Ministry official. Authorities attributed all three deaths to meningitis. Rouholamini's father charged that his son was tortured to death.

According to semiofficial Mehr news agency, the chairman of parliament's investigative committee, Parviz Sarvari, has met with the head of the Iranian military's judicial organization to discuss Pourandarjani's death.

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