Iranian authorities on Tuesday freed 140 people detained in street protests over last month's disputed election and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said he wanted them all released soon.
In what was seen as a gesture to the opposition campaigning against Ahmadinejad's re-election, Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei also ordered a jail closed amid allegations of prisoner abuse.
Iranian authorities on Tuesday freed 140 protesters held in the notorious Evin prison in Tehran, according to a member of a parliamentary panel who visited the detainees.
"We had an intensive meeting with Tehran prosecutor (Saeed Mortazavi) and 140 detainees of the recent events were freed," MP Kazem Jalali said in a statement to the ISNA news agency.
Ahmadinejad, in his first comments about the protesters who rose up against him, told the country's judiciary chief to free any detained demonstrators not facing serious charges with in 10 days.
"We want their families to be happy by their release. They should be home for the occasion of the birth anniversary of Imam Mahdi which falls on August 7," he said in a letter to Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahrudi.
Ahmadinejad urged Shahrudi to show "maximum Islamic compassion," saying those arrested were "provoked by some people and some political groups who were backed by the propaganda made by our enemies."
Around 220 people remain in detention, including 50 "politicians, members of anti-revolutionary groups and foreigners" whom he said were suspected of masterminding riots.
But in a blow to the opposition, the authorities refused to issue a permit for a planned mourning ceremony for those slain during the worst crisis to rock Iran since the Islamic revolution three decades ago.
"No permit has been issued for gathering and marching for any individuals or different political groups," Mahmoud Abbaszadeh Meshkini, the interior ministry's political director, told the Fars news agency.
Opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, who lost to incumbent hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, had submitted request for a "silent" memorial in Tehran on Thursday which would feature recitals from the Koran.
No permit has been issued for gathering and marching for any individuals or different political groups
Mahmoud Abbaszadeh Meshkini, ministry of interior
Khamenei also ordered the closure of a detention center holding protesters which was not up to "required standards," said the secretary of Iran's National Security Council, Saeed Jalili.
"The supreme leader has issued a strict order to ensure there is no injustice committed against anyone in the aftermath of the recent events."
The head of Tehran prisons, Sohrab Soleimani, denied that two protesters had died from prison beatings, insisting they had been struck down by meningitis.
But opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, Ahmadinejad's closest rival, said that if one of the protesters had died of meningitis, "how come his teeth were broken?"
The reformist Sarmayeh newspaper also reported that the life of Saeed Hajjarian, an advisor to former president Mohammad Khatami being detained in Evin prison, was in danger.
"He looked pale... very weak and seriously depressed... He had a foul body odour and said he had been kept in the sun as a pressure tactic," Hajjarian's wife Vajiheh Marsoosi was quoted as saying.
In other developments, MPs have drawn up a bill limiting the autonomy of four vice presidents after a row with Ahmadinejad over his choice of a first vice president, the Mehr news agency said.
Unlike ministers, Iran's vice presidents are not subject to a vote of confidence or impeachment by parliament.
The move came after a political crisis over Ahmadinejad's appointment of a controversial aide, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie, as first vice president in the face of strong opposition even from his own hardline camp.
Ahmadinejad refused to budge until Khamenei ordered him to revoke the appointment, but Rahim Mashaie was kept on as the president's advisor and chief of staff.
Mashaie, an Ahmadinejad confidant who headed the Tourism Organization over the past four years, drew the ire of conservatives in the Islamic republic by saying two years ago that Iran was a "friend of the Israeli people."
Unlike ministers, Iran's vice presidents are not subject to a vote of confidence or impeachment by parliament. Under the constitution, the president can have as many VPs as he sees fit, with the current number set at 11.
The supreme leader has issued a strict order to ensure there is no injustice committed against anyone in the aftermath of the recent events
Secretary of Ayatullah Khamenei