By Golnaz Esfandiari, RFE/RL
Police officers in the past have publicly paraded alleged thieves, muggers, and others in crackdowns on "thugs" and "gangs." Law enforcement officials says it improves security.
Four young men are publicly paraded in the back of a vehicle while masked men in black who appear to be members of Iran's police force beat them up and tell them "to bleat" like sheep.
One of the young men has his hair pulled and is repeatedly hit on the head while being forced to eat leaves. "I want to see you bleat," one of the balaclava-clad men shouts.
The young men appear to have no choice but to obey. They make animal sounds while the masked men assault them.
"I eat ***," the young men shout, using a Persian slang expression that means he made a serious mistake. "I was wrong, I was wrong," another shouts. The beatings continue.
A YouTube video of the disturbing scene has circulated on the Internet since last week.
The date and location of the video, which has raised rare public criticism in Iran, is unclear, as is the reason for the public shaming and mistreatment of the men.
On November 9, the Iranian daily "Farhikhtegan" interviewed several lawyers who said it was illegal for police to beat up suspects and criminals. The four young men in the video are likely to be "neighborhood thugs," the newspaper added.
"If the video is [genuine], then police have committed a crime [and] acted against the law even by publicly parading thugs and hooligans," lawyer Shapoor Esmailian was quoted as saying by the daily.
Another lawyer, Abdolsamad Khoramshahi, said that even if the young men in the video are thugs who have committed crimes, the police forces do not have the right to beat them up and insult them.
Police officials have not commented publicly on the video.
Police officers in the past have publicly paraded alleged thieves, muggers, and others in crackdowns on "thugs" and "gangs." Law enforcement officials have defended the moves by saying that they improve security.
The crackdowns have been documented by Iranian state media.
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