Iranian Police Investigating Man's Death Following Use Of Pepper Spray In Arrest


Police in Iran are investigating the death of a man who was apparently killed while being arrested by an officer in the northeastern city of Mashhad, the official government news agency IRNA has reported.

The probe came after media outside Iran carried reports "of a young man's death and images of when the suspect was arrested, claiming he was poisoned by pepper spray," said police chief Mohammad-Kazem Taghavi of Khorasan Razavi Province, where Mashhad is the capital.

"Special orders have been given...for quickly investigating the case and finding out why and how" it happened, Taghavi added.

He expressed "regret" over the "incident" and said the results of the investigation will be announced soon.

The announcement came hours after a video was published on the Internet that showed a police officer using a spray and a taser against a detainee identified as Mehrdad Sepehri. The BBC said the police had used pepper spray and that the relatives of Sepehri had said that he died on the way to the hospital from suffocation.


The semiofficial Fars news agency said the video showed "a police officer using pepper spray and a taser in response to the arrested individual swearing at him."

Reports said the police had intervened following a family dispute.

Mehdi Akhlaghi, an official with the province's judiciary, said that the man's family have pressed charges, IRNA reported.

Samples will be taken from the man's lung following autopsy to "investigate the impact of [pepper] spray on his death", Akhlaghi was quoted as saying.

The incident follows an October 15 order by Iran's judiciary banning torture, the use of "forced confessions," solitary confinement, illegal police custody, and other violations of defendants' rights.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the announcement should be greeted with skepticism, "given the reality that Iran's court system systematically violates defendants' due-process rights, and the judiciary and the country's intelligence apparatus -- who are empowered to act as judicial officers -- regularly arbitrarily arrest and detain, and torture suspects."

"Abuses start at the very top of the judicial bureaucracy," HRW said, adding that the head of the judiciary, Ayatollah Ebrahim Raisi, himself is a serious rights violator who was part of a committee that ordered the execution of several thousand political prisoners in 1988.

The order came a week after a controversy sparked by videos posted on social media showing police officers beating detainees in pickup trucks in the middle of a street.

In the videos, apparently shot in Tehran, the detainees are also made to apologize for the "mistakes" they say they have committed.

Judiciary chief Raisi in response said the police action was a "case of violation of civil rights."

He also ordered measures to be taken against those responsible, saying it was "strictly forbidden to attack the accused, even if they are thugs."

With reporting by AFP, the BBC, and IRNA