Site Reports Names of 72 Post-Election Victims

By: CNN
By: CNN

(CNN) -- An Iranian reformist Web site on Friday released the identities of 72 people it says were killed by government forces in the aftermath of Iran's disputed presidential elections -- in a defiant move that demands a response from the Islamic republic.

The list posted on Norooz News' Web site is more than double government estimates, which put the death toll of protesters between 25 and 30. Norooz gives the names, ages and details surrounding most of the victims' deaths, which range from being shot by members of the Basij militia to being beaten to death in Tehran's Evin prison.

Iranian government officials did not immediately respond to the claims by Norooz and could not be immediately reached for comment during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

Experts said that even though the opposition has always claimed that the post-election death toll is higher that the government figures, releasing the identities takes another swipe at the credibility of the current hard-line regime and forces its leaders to respond to allegations of wrongdoing.

"The opposition is aiming directly at the government," said Ali Alfoneh, a research fellow at the Washington-based American Enterprise Institute who has researched the relationship between Iranian civilians and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard.

Alfoneh noted that releasing such a specific list puts pressure on Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei who, referring to reports of detainee rape and torture, has said, "The system has no intention to forgive or be courteous to any wrongdoers."

"They are also saying to the supreme leader ... 'If you are serious, if you truly want to punish those who committed irregularities, then this is all the information you need," said Alfoneh, referring to Friday's list.

The first 25 victims on Norooz's list were identified by family members who reached out to authorities, the Web site said. The families of the others "have been under heavy pressure not to make their martyrdoms public and have not gone to the authorities recommended" by opposition leaders Mir Hossein Moussavi and Mehdi Karrubi.

In recent weeks, Khamenei -- who holds the ultimate authority and final say in factional disputes among Islamic leadership -- has been faced with allegations of detainee rape, torture, wrongful deaths and secret burials under his watch.

To make matters worse, the allegations are coming from the very same devoted Islamic followers who helped usher in the Islamic Revolution and overthrow the Shah of Iran 30 years ago.

"There have been acts of defiance over the past 30 years," said Abbas Milani, director of Iranian studies at Stanford University. "What makes the last few weeks very different is that the defiance has come from within the stalwarts of the regime."

By refusing to back down on such damning allegations, reformists Karrubi and Moussavi -- who unsuccessfully challenged hard-line incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the June 12 elections -- are "defying direct orders of the supreme leader," Milani said.

More than 1,000 people were arrested in the government crackdown that followed the election, and more than 100 of them have been going through mass trials since August. Top military officials have called for faster prosecutions and demanded "swift retribution" for post-election detainees, Iranian media have reported.

Khamenei has warned the judiciary should not use "rumors" as the basis for their prosecution, and should try the detainees on strong evidence.

Some experts say such statements speak to a strategy change by Khamenei, who has watched as religious and political leaders try to undermine the credibility of his Islamic establishment. Faced with reformists' charges of mistreatment of detainees, his no-tolerance rhetoric against the opposition has shifted to one demanding justice -- if there is sufficient evidence -- for mistreated post-election detainees.

"I think he's changing his strategy, but I think his endgame remains the same," Hussein Rashid, an expert in Islam and visiting professor at Hofstra University, told CNN Tuesday. "At this point it's more damage control."

The-CNN-Wire/Atlanta
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