Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Times: Drug-laced salad killed doctor who exposed torture

A doctor who witnessed the torture of opposition detainees in Iran died after eating a drug-laced salad, Tehran’s public prosecutor said yesterday.

The announcement raises the number of official explanations of Ramin Pourandarjani’s death to at least four.

Opposition activists have only one: that he was killed because he knew too much.

Dr Pourandarjani, 26, was doing his national service at the Kahrizak detention centre near Tehran, where hundreds of opposition demonstrators were locked up and beaten after the disputed election in June.

At least three died of their injuries, including Mohsen Ruholamini, the son of a prominent conservative. His death caused such an outcry that the regime had to close Kahrizak.

Opposition websites said that Dr Pourandarjani was forced to certify that Mr Ruholamini died of meningitis.

They said that he appeared before a parliamentary committee and testified that Mr Ruholamini was tortured, and that he had received death threats. After Dr Pourandarjani’s death on November 10, officials claimed that he had been in a car accident, died of a heart attack and committed suicide.

Ismail Ahmadi Moghaddam, the Iranian police chief, said last week that Dr Pourandarjani killed himself because he faced a five-year prison term for medical negligence during his time in Kahrizak, and that he had left a note.

Abbas Dowlatabadi, the public prosecutor, said yesterday that forensic tests showed that the physician died from an overdose of propranolol — a drug used to treat high blood pressure — contained in a salad that he had had delivered.
The prosecutor said that the delivery man had been questioned but not arrested, and that it was still not clear if the doctor was murdered or if he committed suicide.

Reza Gholi Pourandarjani said that his son was in good spirits the night before his death.

Masood Pezeshkian, a reformist MP, said yesterday: “It is impossible to accuse him of suicide ... The idea of suicide by someone who had no problems and no serious diseases — and was present during the events in Kahrizak — seems questionable.”
Amnesty International and other human rights organisations have demanded an independent investigation into the doctor’s death.
“If the Iranian authorities have nothing to hide, they should welcome the opportunity to dispel the cloud of doubt and suspicion surrounding the death of Dr Pourandarjani by inviting international experts to participate,” said Elise Auerbach, Amnesty’s Iran specialist.

Dr Pourandarjani’s death has embarrassed the regime, as did that of Neda Soltan, the young student shot dead during a street protest on June 20.

Yesterday the regime continued its efforts to blame Ms Soltan’s death on Iran’s enemies.
It staged a demonstration outside the British Embassy demanding the extradition of Arash Hejazi, the doctor who tried to save Ms Soltan’s life and whom it accuses of being a British stooge. He has fled to Britain.

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