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Aug 19, 12:41 PM EDT

Report: Iran prosecutor acquitted in 2009 protester killings

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TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- A former prosecutor in Tehran has been acquitted of murder charges over the 2009 killing of three detained protesters at a prison he oversaw, Iranian state television reported Wednesday.

Saeed Mortazavi faced charges over the killing of the detainees amid widespread protests against then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's disputed 2009 re-election. The case significantly embarrassed Iranian authorities and drew some of the fiercest criticism against Iran's government and its treatment of those arrested following the election.

The website of Iranian state television quoted Mojtaba Nazari, the lawyer for Iran's social security fund, as announcing the court's decision. Nazari said Mortazavi was sentenced to serve six months in prison for receiving a salary while illegally serving as the head of the social security fund, an appointment by Ahmadinejad's government considered unlawful at the time.

Nazari said Mortazavi would have to pay back the salary and had 20 days to appeal.

Mortazavi was quoted by news website fararu.ir as saying the social security fund owed him about $22,000, though he welcomed the verdict over the 2009 killings.

A parliamentary probe in 2010 found Mortazavi responsible for torturing the three to death at Kahrizak prison a month after their arrest. He was suspended as Tehran prosecutor general and the case remained open for a judicial investigation. However, Mortazavi previously was only briefly arrested in 2013 over the Kahrizak case.

Mir Majid Taheri, defense lawyer for one of the slained protesters, was quoted by the semiofficial ISNA news agency as saying he would appeal Mortazavi's acquittal.

During his years as a prosecutor and a judge, Mortazavi was dubbed the "butcher of the press" for closing more than 120 newspapers and imprisoning dozens of journalists and political activists over his career.

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