Saturday, November 14, 2009

Suicide, heart attack or something more sinister: Young doctor at Kahrizak detention center dies at 26

(updated 12:00 PM GMT, Tuesday, 17 November 2009)

A medical doctor who worked at the notorious Kahrizak detention center died in his sleep at the age of 26 on Tuesday, November 10, according to Iranian media reports.

Ramin Pourandarjani was fulfilling his military service obligations by serving as a physician for Greater Tehran's police force at the Kahrizak detention center prior to his death. Peyke Iran published what it claimed was Pourandarjani's Facebook photo.

Pourandarjani had been called as a witness before the special committee investigating the abuse and deaths of post-election protesters.   

The exact cause of his death is in dispute. Norooz initially reported that Pourandarjani had taken his own life, but on Sunday Roshangari news site published a story at odds with the suicide scenario.

According to Roshangari, Dr. Pourandarjani passed away in the early hours of Tuesday at the dormitory of the police health services building in Tehran. His family was informed that the cause of death was a heart attack.

The atrocities committed against jailed protesters at Kahrizak detention center were so egregious that Leader Ali Khamenei had to order its closure in late July. It is unclear whether the makeshift prison has been shut down or not.

Pourandarjani had examined several abuse victims at Kahrizak, including Mohsen Rouholamini, 25, whom he had seen two days before his death. Rouholamini's murder by torture, which took place sometime around July 10, provoked an outcry even among conservatives because he is the son of a senior aide to former IRGC head and presidential candidate Mohsen Rezaee.

Pourandarjani allegedly refused to attribute Rouholamini's death to meningitis, as the regime and Health Minister Kamran Lankarani had insisted, and was arrested for a week in late July. He was released on bail after the medical examiner determined that the cause of death was repeated blows to Rouholamini's head.

Pourandarjani had been questioned since his release by the internal investigations unit of NAJA (nirouyeh entezamiyeh jomhourieh eslami or the Security/Police Forces of the Islamic Republic), the military authorities, and the disciplinary council of the medical examiner's office. But the doctor, who had intimate knowledge of the atrocities and perpatrators at Kahrizak, was also put under pressure and threatened by plainclothes forces, according to Mowjeh Sabzeh Azadi news site.

His body was washed and placed in a shroud without the presence of his family. His remains were transferred to Tabriz, where he was buried on Thursday.

The special committee's investigation into the abuses at Kahrizak has been dogged by delays and hurdles. (For a report on this, click here)

While none of the actual perpetrators of the torture, rape, and murder that took place at Kahrizak have been formally identified, Pourandarjani was charged with medical malpractice and risked being sent to prison for five years and having his license revoked.

There is a history of inconvenient witnesses passing away in the Islamic Republic. After a string of murders of intellectuals and dissidents in the 1990s and early 2000s, referred to as the chain murders, Saeed Emami, the only senior regime official who was arrested in the case, committed suicide in prison under suspicious circumstances.


(For video and english translation of Pourandarjani's graduation speech, go here)

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