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Report of secret burials in Iran brings call for inquiry

A reformist lawmaker vows to examine allegations that 44 unidentified bodies were buried in a cemetery amid heavy security following post-election unrest.

August 23, 2009|Borzou Daragahi

BEIRUT — An Iranian lawmaker vowed Saturday to examine allegations that dozens of unidentified people killed in the recent post-election unrest were secretly buried last month in the country's largest cemetery.

The reformist website Norooznews.org on Friday cited an unnamed employee of the capital's Behesht Zahra cemetery as saying that 44 unidentified corpses were buried July 12 and 15 amid heavy security.

Majid Nasirpour, a reformist lawmaker who serves on the parliament's Social Affairs Committee, filed a request for an inquiry, reported the website Parlemannews.ir.

"This news story needs to be verified," he told the website Saturday. "I will ask the committee to investigate the allegations."

The number of those killed during the weeks of violence that followed the disputed June 12 presidential election is a source of controversy: Iranian officials say that as few as 20 died, nine of whom were pro-government militiamen. Iranian opposition figures say that at least 69 have been killed, and Western officials in Tehran estimate the number of dead nationwide to be in the hundreds.

Norooznews, the online incarnation of a respected newspaper shut down by authorities in 2002, said it had obtained the registration numbers of the burial permits to back up its report. The website previously reported that bodies were piled up at a mortuary in southwest Tehran.

Iranian authorities have made a concerted effort to downplay the numbers and accounts of those killed during the unrest, pressuring families not to hang mourning banners on their homes and ordering mosques not to allow memorial services.

Nonetheless, mourners Thursday night marked the 40th-day burial anniversary of Sohrab Arabi, a 19-year-old who was apparently shot in the chest during a June 15 demonstration and whose whereabouts was unknown for almost a month.

They took to the streets and chanted political slogans in the expansive Tehran apartment complex where his family lives, videos posted to the Internet showed.

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daragahi@latimes.com

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