TEHRAN - Iran's hardline judiciary has threatened legal action against those who alleged that detained journalists and Internet writers were abused to extract confessions and apologies, official media reported Saturday.
"We will legally deal with those who have published unrealistic material that corresponds with that of the enemy media and that tries to tarnish the work of the police," said a statement from Tehran's prosecutor.
In recent months the judiciary has been engaged in a fresh crackdown on pro-reform press and Internet sites, detaining some 20 reporters. Four of them wrote letters of repentence after being arrested.
Last month the reformist government admitted that it was concerned over the confessions, and said President Mohammad Khatami had ordered an enquiry amid allegations that the detainees were subject to ill-treatment or threats.
But the judiciary's statement asserted that "after being confronted with proof of their criminal actions, almost all of those accused said that they regretted having cooperating with illegal sites and they accepted their errors."
The statement also pointed to "contradictory" comments over the treatment of detainees, pointing to the case of female writer Fereshteh Ghazi, who claimed her nose was broken in detention.
"The police consider her claim to be a lie, since after a medical check it turned out that she had had plastic surgery some months ago," the statement said. Her allegation was aimed at "distorting the public mind and providing fodder for the enemy and foreign media."
The statement also named former Iranian vice president and outspoken reformist Mohammad Ali Abtahi, who maintains a personal website complete with weblog, as one of the people circulating such allegations.
Abtahi quit Khatami's isolated government in October, saying that working with hardliners, who took control of parliament after most reformists were barred from contesting the February elections, had become impossible.
The judiciary statement said the case of the allegations of abuse "was going through its legal process and will be handed over to a court for prosecution."