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Student on death row claims he was tortured

TEHRAN, Iran, March 1 (AFP) - An Iranian student facing execution for his part in the violent unrest of last July claimed Wednesday he had been tortured and ill-treated in prison since his arrest.

"I was hit with an electric cable, hung up by a rope and violently beaten," Akbar Mohammadi said in a letter to judiciary chief Mahmud Hashemi-Shahrudi published in a number of reformist newspapers.

Mohammadi also said he had gone deaf in his right ear, lost two nails on his left foot and suffered from kidney pain.

"The prison doctor ordered me to hospital but up until now I have not been taken there and I continue to suffer," he said.

The press reports said the undated letter was written from cell 93 of block 209 in Tehran's notorious Evin jail and sent to Mohammadi's family at Amol in northern Iran, who decided to make it public.

Mohammadi was the only one of three students sentenced to death in the wake of the unrest sparked by a police raid on a student dormitory at Tehran university to have the verdict confirmed by the courts.

Identified by press photographs, he was found guilty of throwing Molotov cocktails at the security forces at the university on July 9. His only recourse now is to seek an amnesty from Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Mohammadi's brother Manucher, who was portrayed as a ringleader of the disturbances, was jailed for ten years. The two other students sentenced to death had their sentences commuted to ten years and two-and-a-half years.

On Tuesday 20 policemen went on trial in a military court here Tuesday for their role in quelling the student protest which set off the worst unrest in Iran in some 20 years.

The 11 officers and nine men, including former Tehran police chief Farhad Nazari, were charged with assaulting students at the dormitory complex. Nazari was accused of ordering in the police against the orders of the interior ministry.

The students had been demonstrating over the closure by the conservative-dominated courts of the reformist daily newspaper Salam.

Three people were killed in Tehran, including an off-duty policeman said to be sleeping in the dormitory when his colleagues burst in, and the northwestern city of Tabriz in six days of rioting, according to an official tally.

Pro-reform newspapers at the time said at least five people had been killed and dozens wounded, many of whom they said were later abducted from Tehran hospitals by the secret police.

The rioting was only halted with the violent intervention of the Basiji, Iran's volunteer Islamist militia.

A total of 1,500 demonstrators were arrested in the capital, many of them picked up by the Basiji. Around 500 were later released, while the remainder are still being questioned or prosecuted or have already been convicted.

The contrast between the slowness of the court martial of the police and the speed with which the courts prosecuted and convicted student demonstrators sparked criticism from reformers here.

The US State Department in its annual report on human rights around the world published last Friday, said Iran was guilty of "systematic abuses," including widespread use of torture and harsh prison conditions.