Iran releases prisoners after abuse allegations

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Iran has released 140 people detained in the country's post-election turmoil and the Supreme Leader ordered the closure of a prison where human rights groups say protesters were killed, in a nod by authorities to allegations of abuses in the crackdown on protests.

The pro-reform opposition has been contending for weeks that jailed protesters and activists were being held in secret facilities and could be undergoing torture. Authorities appear to be paying greater attention to the complaints after the son of a prominent conservative died in prison – reportedly the same one ordered closed Monday.

The opposition leader Mirhossein Mousavi sharply condemned the wave of arrests and deaths, saying the Iranian people "will never forgive them".

The last official word of the number of people in prison from the crackdown was about 500, announced several weeks ago, and arrests have continued since. The heavy crackdown was launched to put down protests that erupted following the presidential election on 12 June, in which the hard-line incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was declared the winner but which the opposition says was fraudulent.

Among those detained are young protesters, as well as prominent pro-reform politicians, rights activists and lawyers. At least 20 people were killed, according to police, though rights groups say the number is likely to be far higher.

A parliamentary committee investigating prisoners' conditions visited Tehran's main prison, Evin, yesterday, and during the visit 140 detainees connected to the protests were released, said Kazem Jalili, a spokesman for the committee, according to the semi-official ISNA news agency.

Another 150 remain in Evin because weapons were found on them when they were arrested, he said. The names of those released were not immediately known. There was no new word on the current total in prisons around the country.