At least 80 of the 172 demonstrators jailed in Otisville, N.Y., have broken their week-long silence and provided names to federal authorities, enabling officals to expedite their release or -- in the cases of those here illegally -- their deportation, sources said yesterdy.
But, while officials were hopeful that the apparent shift toward cooperation on the part of the jailed Iranians could lead to an early release for many, concern was mounting over the health of at least 32 others who have been hospitalized with symptoms of malnutrition brought on by their continuing hunger strike in protest against their arrest.
Charges by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini Sunday that the jailed demosnstrators were being brutalized brought emphatic denials yesterday from prison and federal officials.
"I categorically deny that there's been any mistreatment since they arrived at this facility," said warden J. Michael Quinlan. He said the prison staff has "bent over backwards" to care for the young ; inmates.
The international ramifications of the arrests, which were made as Khomeini supporters clashed with police at a July 27 rally here, acquired new overtones yesterday when one of the 20 women also arrested told an interviewer at a federal facility in Manhattan that the demonstrators had been selected in advance as candidates for arrest even before the demonstrations began, according to one federal law enforcement source.
Law enforcement officials had said yesterday that they believed the arrests of 192 people here may have been orchestrated by leaders of the demonstration in an effort to descredit attempts by the United States to win the release of 52 American hostages in Iran. Some said they believed the demonstrations and subsequent arrestss may have been orgainzed with the blessing of officials in Iran.
Immigration officials involved in processing the prisoners yesterday were quick to say, however, that no firm evidence of any such orchestration has emerged to their knowledge.
"That would be pure speculation at this point," said Henry Dogin, director of the Immigration and Naturalization Service's New York district office.
One INS investigator said that, if a very high percentage of the demonstrators turn out to have been here legally, then it's "a fair assumption" that they were hand-picked in advance because they could not be deported. Several demonstrators have Midwest addresses, this official said. He added that htis in itself is not conclusive because Iranian demonstrators, through "an amazing underground pipeline," had long been able to assemble large numbers of people on short notice to protest various causes related to their homeland.
Meanwhile yesterday, Washington police, whose handling of the pro-Khomeini demonstration brought charges of police brutality, were preparing for a new demonstration today -- this one in suport of the jailed demonstrators.
A group calling itself "The Muslim Community of Washington" has been granted a permit for 300 people to march from the Islamic Center at 2551 Massachussetts Ave. NW, to the Justice Department between noon and 3 p.m.
Yet another group, the Moslem Studenets Association, which is on a hunger strike in front of the White House, yesterday had its permit to demonstrate there extended to Aug. 12 and the size of the authorized demonstration increased from 42 to 200, according to U.S. Park Police.
This demonstration, which began July 29, is to protest the alleged police brutality and demand the freedon of their fellow demonstrators in New York.
Dogin said last night that he expected the processing of the 80 who have given names to be completed by the end of today.
He said that 15 INS investigators were working around the clock last night, taking fingerprints and calling universities and employers in an attempt to verify the identities of those who had provided names. "If they are U.S. citizens they can walk out, or if they are aliens lawful in this country they can leave," Dogin said. "If they have entered illegally or have violated the terms of their entry they are subject to deportation."
In that instance, he said INS would issue an order to show cause why they should not be deported and an immigration judge would set bail, after which the defendant would have seven days to appear at a hearing at which he would have to prove he was not deportable.
Federal officials said prisoners began giving names Sunday night, and thatt by last night more were coming forward with identities each hour.
The demonstrators became prisoners after their July 27 rally when they were charged with disorderly conduct and then refused to give their names.
After several days in D.C. Jail, the charges were dropped and the demonstrators were released to the custody of the INS, which moved them to the still-unfinished Federal Correctional Institution at Otisville, because the agency said that was the only locaton with space to house them.
"They are being held because they wonT identify themselves, explained INS spokeswoman Janet Graham. "If they refuse to give their identification, then we will go to deportation proceedings. Right now, we're in the process of interrogating them."
Attorneys for the demonstrators contend that many of their clients were subjected to police brutality during several scuffles with police who were trying to keep them away from an anti-Khomeini demonstration. Mark Lane, an attorney for some of the prisoners, charget yesterday that the term brutality "would be an understatement" in this case. He refused to elaborate.
D.C. police officials last week began an internal investigaation into their handling of the demonstrationm andyesterday the department sent out a letter asking local tellevision stations voluntarily to turn over all film and videotapes of the demonstration.
Gary Hankins, a police spokesman, stressed that the department has not received any formal complaint of police brutality by anyone involved in the demonstration, but that the department was pressing ahead on its own.
Two Iranians who said they were involved in the July 27 protest filed suit yesterday in U.S. District Court here for $6.2 million against the federal and local government, claiming their constitutional rights were violated when they were struck by policemen.
Negotiations are continuing, meanwhile, between the prisoners, their attorneys, representatives of an Iranian student group, and immigration officials.
Details of the negotiations were not available in the closed-mouth atmosphere of the prison, but the Rev. John Adams, of the United Methodist Church here, who is at Otisville for the negotiations, said one , said one objective was to persuade the Iranians to eat.
Adams described the young men as "committed, disciplined, unified, patient, friendly and determined" and said, "Yes, they will" continue their hunger strike.
Of the 32 men being treated, at least 15 were carried to the prison hospital on stretchers and were "in a stupor," Quinlan said.
He said those 15 were forced to take the medication -- a combination of carbohydrates, protein and various minerals -- by being held down, their noses pinched shut, and the solution poured down their throats.
One man was force-fed liquid medication via a tube placed in his nose and down his throat. He was "thrashing about and kicking during the process, Quinlan said, and had to be held down by hospital workers.
Two more young men who resisted the medication also were given it initially through tubes in the nostrils, but later orally "with assistance," Quinlan said.
Fourteen more are taking medication volulntarily, on the advice of Ahmad Fallah, an Iranian doctor from New York City who examined them on Sunday, Quinlan said.
Quinlan said that most of the Iranians still are fasting and taking sugar packets and water placed in their cells.
Quinlan estimated that only about five of the men are eating the meals that are put into their 84-square-foot cells at least three times daily. Some drink the fruit juices but do not touch solid food, prison authorities said.
Quinlan defended the practice of forcing the men to take the medication, saying that otherwise they faced possible death. He said that, according to the policy of the Bureau of Prisons and Title 18 of the U.S. Code, "If the medical officer deems it necessaray for the purpose of sustaining life, medication can be adminstered against [the prisoner's] will."