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Iranian Opposition Leader Mehdi Karroubi Facing Court Scrutiny

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Tehran's prosecutor says an investigation is under way into charges by Iranian opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi that detainees in a government detention center were raped. A judiciary panel investigating the matter has dismissed the rape claim.

Iran's official Press TV says opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi is under scrutiny for "making false allegations" over claims detainees were raped at a government detention center.

Iran's ILNA news agency, quoting prosecutor Jaffari Dolatabadi, reports any charges against Karroubi would be tried by a special clerical court, since he is a Shi'ite clergyman.

A special judiciary panel, which was set up to investigate Karroubi's charges that a handful of protesters being held at Kahrizak detention center were raped, asserted last month that the accusations were false.

"These accusations," it wrote, "have been made without any proof, and all the documents given by Karroubi are without foundation." "The allegations," it went on, "were aimed at misleading public opinion."

Iran's top police chief Esmail Ahmadi Moghaddam told the press, last week, that "no evidence has emerged to show that prisoners were raped at Kahrizak."

The center was closed in August upon the order of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei after repeated accusations of abuse and mistreatment of prisoners at Kahrizak. A number of officials at the prison were also suspended and are awaiting trial in the case.

Opposition leader Karroubi first raised the issue of rape and torture of detainees in his newspaper Etemad Melli and on its Web site in August. His newspaper was closed down and its offices raided in the wake of the allegations.

Iranian film-maker Reza Allamehzadeh, who lives in exile in Holland, interviewed a young man [Ibrahim Sharify] who explained how he had been raped and tortured at Kahrizak.

He says that Ibrahim Sharify [who confesses to having been raped in the interview] is living proof before you that rape and torture exist in the Islamic Republic, today.

Reza Moini of Reporters Without Borders in Paris notes the entire subject of rape in Iranian prisons has been silenced, causing the official ire at Karroubi for repeatedly raising the issue.

He says that the case [of Ibrahim Sharify] was first raised by Karroubi and the Iranian press has been unable to discuss the issue because of the government position that no rapes took place, and that is why they are attacking [Karroubi]. He adds this is also why his newspaper, Etemad Melli, was shut down.

Karroubi's repeated insistence that rape, torture and other abuses took place in government detention centers, including a letter by his son to the head of Iranian government TV, have roused the ire of hardliners, who demand that he be prosecuted.