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Mystery surrounds arrested Iranian blogger's reported death

November 8, 2012 |  7:05 pm

BEIRUT -- Human rights activists are calling on Iran to investigate the apparent death of a blogger who was in custody after being arrested for criticizing the government in online postings.

Sattar Beheshti, 35, reportedly died this week while in detention after his arrest Oct. 30 by Iran’s cyber police unit.

Beheshti maintained a website, My Life for My Iran, on which he criticized the Iranian government, said the human rights group Amnesty International.

The exact time and cause of his death are not publicly known, Amnesty said in a statement.

“The Iranian authorities must immediately carry out an independent investigation into his death, including whether torture played a part in it,” Amnesty International said.

Before his death, Amnesty said, Beheshti apparently lodged a complaint with prison authorities saying he had been beaten, “lending credence to reports that he died as a result of torture in detention.”

Various reports indicated that Beheshti’s family learned of his death Tuesday, when relatives were told to collect his body. The family has said he was in good health before his detention.

“The family came under pressure to bury the body quickly and was ordered under threat not to inform the media,” Reporters Without Borders, a freedom-of-information group,  said in a statement.

The day before his arrest, Amnesty said, Beheshti had complained about receiving threats related to his blog posts, including a thinly veiled death threat. “Tell your mother she will soon be wearing black, because you don’t shut your big mouth,” Amnesty quoted Beheshti as saying.

A Facebook page has been set up in solidarity with the blogger. In a photograph posted online, Beheshti appears with his mother.

Beheshti was not particularly well-known among Iranian bloggers, Amnesty said.

Iran’s government has not commented on the case.

Human rights groups have long accused the Islamic Republic of jailing dissidents,  suppressing free speech and not fully investigating  deaths that occur in custody.

According to Amnesty International, Iranian authorities have acknowledged that at least three detainees at the Kahrizak prison, where Beheshti also was reportedly held, died as a result of torture or other ill treatment following their arrests in the wake of Iran’s disputed 2009 presidential election.

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-- Patrick J. McDonnell and Alexandra Sandels

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