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Iranian president orders investigation into death of woman in custody

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran’s president has ordered an investigation into the case of a young woman who slipped into a coma while in custody in Tehran and died, state media reported Friday. Police have said that she suffered a heart attack.

According to the state news agency IRNA, President Ebrahim Raisi asked Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi to “investigate the cause of the incident with urgency and special attention.”

According to reports on social media, Mahsa Amini, 22, was detained earlier this week by the so-called “morality police” after officers apparently found fault with her veil or hijab.

The veil has been compulsory for women in Iran since after the 1979 Islamic Revolution and members of the morality police enforce the strict dress code.

Police said Thursday that Amini was taken to a hospital after allegedly suffering a heart attack while in custody. Pro-reform news websites quoted an uncle of Amini as saying that she had no history of heart disease.

Police said she was arrested on Tuesday.

The official website of Iran’s judiciary, Mizan.news, said Tehran’s chief prosecutor Ali Salehi ordered a police team of forensic pathologists to examine the medical aspects of the case.

Iran’s morality police have come under fire in recent years for their treatment of people, especially young women, and videos posted on social media show officers forcing women into police vehicles.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has supported a softer attitude towards women who do not adhere to the official dress code.

But hardliners have called for severe punishment and even whipping, arguing that allowing women to show their hair leads to moral decline and the disintegration of families. In recent years, the judiciary has urged people to report women who do not wear the hijab.

Since 2017, after dozens of women publicly removed their veils in a wave of protests, authorities have cracked down.

Amini’s case has drawn condemnation from Iranian celebrities, athletes and other public figures.

Reformist former president Mohammad Khatami called the behavior of the morality police a “disaster”, while former MP and politician Mahmoud Sadeghi called on Khamenei to speak publicly about Amini’s case.

Popular ex-soccer player Ali Karimi tweeted that as the children of top officials leave the country, “our children are dying.”

Hossein Mahini, another former soccer player, said in a tweet, addressing the morality police: “We hate you.”

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