Monday, June 29, 2009

Ahmadinejad, today ordered an investigation into the killing of Neda Agha Soltan

Neda Soltani

Neda Soltani, whose death at a demonstration was filmed on a phone and posted on the internet. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

The Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, today ordered an investigation into the killing of Neda Agha Soltan, who has become a symbol of the protest movement after a video of her dying moments was circulated on the internet.

In a letter to the head of the country's judiciary, Ahmadinejad partly acknowledged public outrage at her death by describing it as a "heartfelt event".

The president – whose disputed re-election on 12 June led to demonstrations in Tehran – suggested that Soltan's death was "suspicious", despite eyewitness accounts that she was shot by riot police on motorcycles during a violent crackdown on opposition protests.

"Neda Agha Soltan was shot dead in one of Tehran's streets on 20 June by unknown elements in a completely suspicious way," he said.

He also accused the foreign media of using the case for propaganda purposes "to distort the pure and clean image of the Islamic Republic in the world".

The Iranian authorities attempted to blame the death of the 26-year-old philosophy student on terrorists, outsiders and even the BBC, with a number of conspiracy theories put forward in the state-run media.

But many observers view the investigation ordered by Ahmadinejad as a tacit admission that these theories have convinced nobody.

His letter said: "I request you to order the judicial system to seriously follow up the murder case … and identify elements behind the case and inform the people of the result."

Soltan was shot on 20 June, a day after Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, had threatened protesters with "consequences" if they continued to take to the streets.