Monday, June 29, 2009

President Ahmadinejad of Iran Calls For Neda Probe

Ahmadinejad calls for Neda probe

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has called for an investigation into the death of a young woman who has become an icon of opposition protests.

He urged Iran's judicial authorities to bring to justice those responsible for the shooting of Neda Agha-Soltan.

Mr Ahmadinejad said there were many fabricated reports in the foreign media about the shooting of the 26-year-old during a protest earlier this month.

Eyewitnesses reportedly said a member of a government militia had shot her.

Video footage of the music student's dying moments was seen around the world after being posted on the internet.

'Suspicious' death

She was shot on 20 June, when supporters of defeated election candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi clashed with riot police and Basij militiamen in the capital Tehran.

Some 17 people are thought to have died during the post-election street protests.

In a letter to judiciary chief Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi-Shahroudi, Mr Ahmadinejad described Neda's death as "suspicious," reported the official Irna news agency on Monday.

His letter added: "I request you to order the judicial system to seriously follow up the murder case... and identify elements behind the case and inform the people of the result," reported Irna.

Mr Ahmadinejad's letter also suggested that the opposition and Iran's enemies overseas had sought to exploit her death "for their own political aims and also to distort the pure and clean image of the Islamic Republic in the world".

President Ahmadinejad was declared the poll winner by a landslide, but his opponents said the victory was achieved by massive fraud.

The authorities reject the charge but Iran's top legislative body, the Guardians Council, has begun a partial recount of the poll - a move rejected by the defeated opposition candidate.

Diplomatic row

Meanwhile, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown has demanded the release of British embassy staff detained by the Iranian authorities in Tehran.

Iranian officials say they have freed five of the nine staff and the rest are being interrogated.

Iran repeatedly accused foreign powers - especially Britain and the US - of meddling after the 12 June election.

In the fallout from the crisis, Tehran has expelled two British diplomats and the UK has responded with a similar measure.

At least 1,000 opposition supporters are reported to have staged a noisy rally outside a mosque in Tehran on Sunday evening before it was broken up by police and militia.

The report could not be independently verified because of reporting restrictions on foreign media.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2009/06/29 16:37:35 GMT

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