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Page last updated at 21:28 GMT, Wednesday, 29 July 2009 22:28 UK

US urges Iran to free prisoners

Hillary Clinton praised the "incredible courage" of Iranian protesters

The US secretary of state has called on Iran to free political detainees following reports that many are being abused by the authorities.

Dozens were arrested during post-poll protests and 20 are due to face trial next week.

Hillary Clinton said she deplored reports that political prisoners were being mistreated.

She urged the government to release prisoners held for political reasons and to treat detainees properly.

"We believe that it is imperative for the Iranian authorities to release political prisoners, to treat them appropriately and humanely," Mrs Clinton said during a news conference in Washington.

Grave visits

She said reports of the continuing detention and abuse of political prisoners suggested that Iran's political situation had yet to be resolved.

Her comments come as the country announced that it would release some of the prisoners accused of minor offences on Friday, amid growing outrage in Iran over their treatment.

Those who will stand trial face charges including bombings and attacking security forces.

Opposition leaders said they planned to visit the graves of slain protesters on Thursday, after permission was refused for a public memorial ceremony.

Correspondents say the visit could become the next flashpoint between the security forces and opposition protesters.

Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, both reformist candidates who say the June poll was rigged, are planning to mark the end of the 40-day mourning period for several protesters.

Among the graves they intend to visit is the burial site of Neda Agha-Soltan, a young women who became an icon of the opposition movement after video of her death was posted on the internet.

Allegations

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who was re-elected in the election, has reportedly ordered that all prisoners not accused of serious offences be freed by 7 August.

On Tuesday, officials said about 140 people detained during the protests were released from Evin prison.

But about 200 others, accused of more serious crimes, remained in the prison.

Accounts have been emerging of mistreatment of people detained during the protests.

Hanif Mazroei, a reformist journalist and blogger, told BBC Persian that he had interviewed family members of people held at the facility.

Groups of 10-20 prisoners had been held in goods containers with no sanitation and little ventilation, and detainees were beaten daily, some until they were unconscious, the prisoners relatives told him.



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