A unique strain of viral disease killed Iranian protesters who were being held in Kahrizak, a prison a few miles south of Tehran-- at least, according to General Ismail Ahmadi Moghaddam, the country's top police official. Symptoms of the previously unknown disease included broken bones, severe bruising and other trauma not usually associated with viruses.
While admitting that "some abuse" of prisoners arrested in this summer's protest of Iranian elections "may have occurred" at the facility, Moghaddam denies that reports of torture and beatings resulted in any deaths. Instead, the general insists that the overcrowded conditions following the mass arrests sparked an outbreak of a virus that killed at least 30 of the prisoners.
"This detention center was built to house dangerous criminals. Housing people related to recent riots caused an outbreak of diseases," official news agency IRNA quoted Moghaddam as saying. Protesters "died of viral illness and not as a result of beating," he added, according to another news agency, the semiofficial Fars.
Symptoms of the viral infection included severe bruising, broken bones and trauma similar to that of the son of former Revolutionary Guard leader Mohsen Rezaei's top aide, Abdolhossein Rouhalamini, who died in detention.
Rouhalamini was arrested during a July 9 protest and taken to a hospital two weeks later where he died within hours. He had been held at Kahrizak and his jaw was broken when his father received his body.
It was unclear if the new viral strain has been reported to the World Health Organization, but officials at the Atlanta-based Centers For Disease Control have reported that no samples of the virus have as yet been sent to CDC labs for typing or analysis.