Iran denies security forces killed 16-year-old, says she fell off roof-Iranian media

FILE PHOTO: Iran's riot police forces stand in a street in Tehran, Iran October 3, 2022. WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS

DUBAI (Reuters) - Iranian authorities have denied reports security forces killed a 16-year-old girl during protests ignited by the death of a woman in police custody, Iranian media reported on Friday, saying she committed suicide by falling off a roof.

Social media reports and rights group Amnesty International have said Sarina Esmaeilzadeh was killed by security forces when she was struck with batons on the head during protests over the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in morality police custody.

Authorities earlier this week gave a similar cause of death - falling off a roof - for 17-year-old Nika Shakarami, who activists say was killed in Tehran while demonstrating over Amini's death.

Rights groups say more than 150 people have been killed, hundreds have been injured and thousands arrested in a crackdown on nationwide protests marking the biggest challenge to Iran's clerical leadership in years.

Women have played a prominent role, waving and burning headscarves. High school girls have also taken part.

The chief justice of Alborz province where Esmaeilzadeh died said a preliminary investigation showed her death was caused by suicide from a fall from the roof of a five-story building, the semi-official ISNA news agency said.

Chief justice Hossein Fazeli Herikandi said claims in opposition media about her death were "lies". "Based on her mother's account, Esmaeilzadeh had a history of suicide attempts," he said. Police received a report of her death on Sept. 24, he said.

Reuters could not reach her family for comment.

Amnesty International, in a Sept. 30 report, said she was one of at least 52 people killed by security forces between Sept. 19 and Sept. 25, saying Esmaeilzadeh "died after being severely beaten in the head with batons".

A video showing Esmaeilzadeh smiling and listening to music has been viewed around 147,000 times on the widely-followed 1500tasvir Twitter account.

Amini was arrested on Sept. 13 in Tehran for "inappropriate attire". The authorities have said she suffered a heart attack after being taken to a station to be "educated".

Her family have denied she had any heart problems. Her father has said she had bruises on her legs, and holds police responsible for her death.

The government has ordered an investigation.

Earlier this week, state media said a judicial case had been opened into Shakarami's death, citing officials claiming it had nothing to do with the unrest, and that she had fallen off a roof and her body contained no bullet wounds. Activists have said she was killed in Tehran while demonstrating.

(Writing by Tom Perry, Editing by William Maclean)

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