Several moderate Iranian lawmakers have demanded a probe into alleged beatings of several political prisoners held at Tehran's Evin prison, Iran’s official news media reported.
The demand comes after foreign media last week reported that more than 30 detainees in Ward 350 at the prison were allegedly beaten, several of them seriously, during a snap inspection on April 17.
Iranian judiciary officials continue to deny any use of violence, despite testimonies from the families of the prisoners.
Gholam Hossein Esmaili, the head of Iran’s state prisons, called the foreign media reports propaganda against the Islamic republic.
Asked about injuries suffered by the prisoners, Esmaili said, "We don't intend to respond to the allegations made by opposition websites that spread lies against the regime," the semi-official ILNA news agency reported.
On Tuesday, Iranian State Television broadcast a 10-minute report, lambasting Voice of America’s Persian service and BBC Persian Television for their coverage of the raid on the political prisoners in Evin prison.
Families of the inmates protested the alleged abuse outside the presidential palace earlier this week, eventually meeting with a presidential adviser to discuss their concerns.
By Wednesday, Esmaili was removed from his prison post. He was promoted and will head Iran’s judiciary department, the Associated Press reported.
The Guardian reported on its website that more than 30 inmates held in Evin's Ward 350 were beaten April 17.
Some suffered skull fractures, broken ribs, wounds and swelling on their bodies after guards and intelligence officials forced the prisoners to run through a gauntlet as they beat them with batons, according to opposition sources.
Voice of America’s Persian service heard from several prisoners’ family members.
Mohammad Shojaei’s sister said she saw her brother during a regular visit at the prison on Monday. “There were several wounds and bruises on his body,” she said. “He told me that officers handcuffed his hands behind his back and beat him.”
Inmate Amir Eslami’s wife said that when she saw her husband at the prison, she could tell he had been beaten. Eslami told her: “We are in good condition, so we are allowed to visit our family. But others who (were) beaten heavily are in solitary cells.”
Eslami’s wife said she told her husband to report his injuries to the prison medical office. But he told her that if he were to report his injuries, officials would send him to solitary.
Inmate Hossein Ronagi’s father said, "Our sons are not safe there. … They threaten us to be quiet. How can I become silent when there is no safety for my son and I?"
The wife of inmate Atefeh Khalafi said, "Our prisoners are innocent. Everybody knows they were arrested after 2009 election and without a fair trial and … sentenced to years. Now, we expect respect from officials and also new government."
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who promised to usher in change, including better treatment of political prisoners, had not yet commented on Thursday about the alleged incident last week.
The Committee to Protect Journalists said at least seven Iranian journalists were among those beaten. CPJ stated: “We call on the Iranian government to hold to account those involved in the attack and to ensure that all the journalists receive appropriate medical care.”
In a BBC report, human rights activists have accused the Iranian authorities of regularly subjecting prisoners, especially those convicted on politically motivated charges, to abuse and of depriving them of medical treatment.
Seven political prisoners are thought to have died as a result of torture, ill-treatment, or medical neglect since 2009, when millions protested after the disputed re-election of former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.