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'Physical pressure' from Iran’s cyber cops killed blogger

Police chief fired after illegally-held man found dead in cell

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Iranian cyber police have been fingered in a parliamentary report for the death in custody of a blogger who was arrested late last year for criticising the regime and posing a national security risk.

A special committee found that although the arrest of Sattar Beheshti was lawful, he was then detained by the cyber police (FATA) in Tehran without a legal permit and in a centre with no closed circuit cameras, according to state news agency Mehr.

He died two days later, on November 3, with bruises on his shoulder, legs, and back – most likely as a result of shock, the report said.

Unlike Western cyber cops like the Met’s PCeU, who mainly investigate computer crimes such as DDoS, malware attacks and internet fraud, FATA’s role thus concentrates on suppressing any online behaviour deemed immoral or anti-revolutionary. Early last year it announced strict new regulations for cyber café usage and there have also been reports it is mounting a crackdown on VPNs.

The agency’s chief, Colonel Mohammad Hassan Shokrian, has already been removed from his post for neglecting to supervise Beheshti and three of his officers are apparently under arrest for subjecting him to “physical and psychological pressure”.

Although the report apparently calls for action to prevent similar deaths and tighter regulation of the conditions at detention centres, some MPs voiced their criticism.

MP Ali Motahhari claimed that according to Beheshti’s family, he was arrested without a warrant, while MP Mohammad Reza Tabesh said a paragraph had been removed from the report, according to Mehr.

Meanwhile, news emerged last week that a 14-year-old blogger was arrested by FATA in the city of Karaj for publishing “obscene” content. ®

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