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Iran election demonstration death toll exceeds reported numbers: rights group

[JURIST] The number of deaths during post-election protests in Tehran exceeds government reports [press release], the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran (ICHRI) [advocacy website] reported Wednesday. The rights group claims that at least 34 demonstrators died on June 20, contrary to government reports of 11 deaths on that day and 20 deaths total since the disputed June 12 election [JURIST news archive]. The number was determined from morgue records of three hospitals located near major demonstration areas where militia and security forces opened fire on protesters. ICHRI spokesman Aaron Rhodes stated that information being gathered suggests that "hundreds of protesters were slaughtered" during the election demonstrations. The group also alleges that those thought to be detained may also be dead. Family members of missing protesters have reported that they were shown hundreds of photographs of corpses [Norooz report, in Persian] by authorities for identification purposes.

Iran has been experiencing turmoil in Tehran and elsewhere since President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] won the election in June. Last week, Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] reported that some arrested protesters were beaten, deprived of sleep and threatened with torture in an effort to force false confessions [report, text; JURIST report]. Also last week, opposition leaders called for the release of those detained for their alleged involvement in the protests. The request was brought jointly by candidates Mir Hossein Mousavi [IranTracker profile; JURIST news archive] and Mehdi Karroubi along with former president Mohammad Khatami, who also called for an immediate stop to the allegedly baseless arrests of dissidents. The country's Guardian Council of the Constitution [official website, in Persian] recently certified the contested results [press release, in Persian; JURIST report], officially sanctioning the re-election of Ahmadinejad. Human rights groups have viewed the arrests as political repression [JURIST report], saying that Iranian forces are using the protests to "engage in what appears to be a major purge of reform-oriented individuals."

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