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April 24, 2017

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Iran policeman faces jail, lashes for killing blogger

TEHRAN--An Iranian policeman has been sentenced to three years in jail, 74 lashes and two years' internal exile for the unpremeditated killing of a blogger in 2012, media reported Saturday.

Sattar Beheshti, 35, arrested on Oct. 12 that year for criticizing Iran's regime on the Internet, was found dead in his cell at Iran's notorious Kahrizak prison on November 3.

Opposition groups alleged at the time that he had been tortured to death.

The Tehran prosecutor ruled that Beheshti's death was "probably caused by shock after several blows to sensitive parts of his body, or by extreme psychological pressure," the media reports said.

The court decided that his killing was "not premeditated," a ruling which the lawyer for the blogger's family contested.

"When journalists are jailed for six years, a sentence of three years for murder is surprising," Giti Pourfazl was reported as saying.

The convicted officer from the police cybercrime unit was not identified.

Premeditated murder is among the crimes punishable by death in Iran, based on its interpretation of Sharia law in force since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

After Beheshti's death, influential MP Aladin Borujerdi took issue with claims by pathologists that he had died of shock and fear, saying he had "very clearly" been beaten in custody.

Borujerdi heads Iran's parliamentary foreign affairs committee.

Beheshti's death also led to the dismissal of the head of Iran's cybercrime unit, launched in January 2011 to confront anti-regime activity on the Internet.

Reports said the cybercrime chief was fired for "negligence, weakness and not controlling his staff properly."

A number of investigations were launched after U.N. experts and some Western states condemned Beheshti's death and demanded that Iran investigate it, with Amnesty International saying the blogger may have died from torture.

Hundreds of opposition figures — politicians, journalists, bloggers, lawyers, rights activists, union figures and media workers — are in Iranian prisons, according to international human rights groups.

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