By Golnaz Esfandiari, RFE/RL
Ali Yunesi, a senior adviser to Iran's President Hassan Rohani and a former intelligence minister, has admitted that "many cases" of human rights violations are taking place in Iran's courts and prisons, blaming them on extremists.
The human rights situation in the Islamic republic is often the subject of criticism by rights group and UN rights experts. Yet Iranian officials very rarely admit that abuses take place in the country.
In a February 26 interview with the semi-official ISNA news agency, Yunesi said that hard-liners are creating trouble for the Islamic republic and damaging the country's reputation through their actions.
"There are extremists who are under the control of nobody; many of them have infiltrated centers of power; they act as they wish, but of course the Islamic republic is [held responsible]," Yunesi said.
As an example, he cited the case of Zahra Kazemi, an Iranian-Canadian photojournalist who died in 2013 from a brain hemorrhage resulting from beatings after he was detained in front of Tehran's Evin Prison and interrogated.
Yunesi who advises Rohani on ethnic and religious minorities' affairs, noted that the case has led to a worsening of Iran's ties with Canada.
"All documents are available about who did this," Yunesi said, adding that some of those responsible for Kazemi's death were punished.
"This [incident] was caused by someone's own will and the Islamic republic continues to pay the price," he said.
In Yunesi's view, the best place for the extremists is the Iranian parliament.
"These individuals should speak in the parliament, but they shouldn't be in power centers where they violate people's rights," he said.
Yunesi also said that the government remains faithful to its pledge to improve civil rights.
He said the government has managed to change the atmosphere somewhat and act on behalf of minorities.
Yunesi indicated that Rohani's administration will send a draft law on civil rights to the parliament, but added that he believes it unlikely that the conservative-dominated assembly will "tolerate and adopt" the government's plan.
Yunesi is likely to face criticism for his comments from hard-liners, who have also blasted him in the past over some of his stances and remarks in support of minority rights.
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