Iranian president orders probe of woman’s death in custody

TEHRAN, Iran – Iran’s president has ordered an investigation into the case of a young woman who fell into a coma and died while in custody in Tehran, state media reported Friday. The police said that he had suffered a heart attack.

According to the state news agency IRNA, President Ibrahim Raisi told Interior Minister Ahmed Wahidi to “investigate the incident with immediate and special attention.”

According to reports on social media, Mehsa Amini, 22, was detained by the so-called “morality police” earlier this week after officers apparently discovered a fault in her scarf or hijab.

Headscarves have been compulsory for women in Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, and members of the morality police enforce a strict dress code.

Amini, who was arrested on Tuesday, was taken to hospital after allegedly suffering a heart attack while in custody, police said on Thursday. Pro-reform news websites quoted one of Amini’s uncles as saying he had no history of heart disease.

On Friday, police said there was no violence or physical contact between officers and Amini while she was in custody. Police also showed closed-circuit footage showing Amini inside the police station with other detainees.

At one point she gets up from her chair, goes to talk to another woman, then stumbles off the chair holding her head in both hands. In the next part, he is being carried away on a stretcher.

Tehran’s chief prosecutor Ali Salehi ordered a police team of forensic pathologists to examine the medical aspects of the case,, Iran’s official judiciary website, said.

Iran’s morality police have been criticized in recent years for their treatment of people, especially young women, and videos uploaded to social media show officers forcing women into police cars.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has advocated a lenient approach to women who do not comply with the official dress code.

But hardliners have called for severe punishment and even flogging, saying that allowing women to show their hair leads to moral degradation and the breakdown of families. The judiciary has in recent years urged people to report women who do not wear the hijab.

Since 2017, after dozens of women took off their headscarves in public in a wave of protests, the authorities have taken drastic measures.

Amini’s case has drawn condemnation from Iranian celebrities, athletes and other public figures.

Reformist former president Mohammad Khatami said the behavior of the ethics police was a “catastrophe”, while outspoken politician and former lawmaker Mahmoud Sadeghi called on Khamenei to speak publicly about Amini’s case.

Famous former soccer player Ali Karimi tweeted that while the children of high-ranking officials are leaving the country, “our children are dying.”

Another former soccer player Hussain Mahi addressed the moral police in a tweet, saying: “We hate you.”

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