News / Middle East

Iran, Opposition Groups Dispute Cause of Activist's Death

Iran's prominent activist and rights campaigner Haleh Sahabi (file photo)
Iran's prominent activist and rights campaigner Haleh Sahabi (file photo)

Iranian opposition websites say the daughter of a prominent Iranian dissident has died after a scuffle with security forces at her father's funeral, while government media say she died of a heart attack.

Opposition websites say Haleh Sahabi, the daughter of Ezzatollah Sahabi and a prominent activist in her own right, fell to the ground in an altercation Wednesday.

The opposition website Kaleme says she was pushed to the ground as security forces tried to take a picture of her father out of her hands. The reports said she never got up after the fall.

But Iranian media say the 54-year old woman died of "heart problems."  They also deny that there were any clashes between mourners and security forces.

The state-run news agency (IRNA) reports, though, that forces arrested five people who had intended to disrupt order, without elaborating.

The U.S. is urging Iran to investigate the circumstances surrounding Sahabi's death.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner says if reports that government security forces contributed to her death are accurate, then it demonstrates what he calls a "deplorable disregard for human dignity and respect" by Iranian authorities.

The elder Sahabi was jailed for criticizing the regime of Iran's Shah before the 1979 revolution and also for criticizing the hardline clerics in power after the revolution.

The younger Sahabi was jailed after the government crackdown on protesters after the 2009 election, which the opposition claims was "rigged."

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.

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