A hard-line cleric in Iran is denouncing allegations that political protesters have been tortured to death while in prison.  

Senior Cleric Ahmad Khatami told worshippers during Friday prayers at Tehran University that the torture claims by an outspoken opposition leader and former parliament speaker, Mahdi Karroubi, have been a boost to Iran's enemies.  He called for Karroubi to stand trial for the remarks.

Karroubi released a statement Thursday that detailed the extreme punishments he says some prisoners have endured.  He accused prison authorities of carrying out lethal beatings, rape and abuse.

The allegations of abuse have angered Iran's hard-line conservative establishment, deepening political divisions with more moderate clergy members and politicians.

More than 100 detainees have been involved in mass trials during the past two weeks.  Iranian Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi calls them "show trials" that must be stopped.

On Thursday, United Nations officials urged Iranian authorities to disregard any forced confessions obtained through torture or harsh interrogation.

The experts say the victims of Iran's alleged interrogation tactics include lawyers, journalists and human rights defenders, as well as political opponents who have demonstrated against Iran's June presidential election.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.