TEHRAN - An Iranian commander said 36 people died in unrest after June's disputed election, including three in a Tehran prison, more than the official figures but half the number claimed by the opposition.

Despite news disseminated by foreign (media) networks, the unrest had 36 deaths in all, Abdollah Araghi of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards said in comments carried by the reformist Etemad newspaper on Thursday.

Araghi's figure compares to previous official estimates of around 26 people killed in post-election violence. The opposition has put the death toll at more than 70 people.

A Guards commander in the capital, Araghi said three of the dead died in Kahrizak prison in south Tehran, Etemad reported.

Many of those arrested during opposition protests after the election were held in Kahrizak. At least three people died in custody there and widespread anger erupted as reports of abuse in the jail spread.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ordered the closure of Kahrizak in July and the semi-official Mehr News Agency this week said a trial of people involved would start in coming days.

Iranian officials, blaming the opposition for the bloodshed that followed the June 12 presidential poll, have previously said members of the pro-government Islamic Basij militia were among those killed in the unrest.

The militia helped the elite Guards put down huge opposition protests over the vote, which moderate defeated candidates say was rigged to secure hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's re-election. The authorities deny the charge.

Pro-reform cleric Mehdi Karoubi, who came fourth in the election, last month said some protesters were raped and abused in jail, and others tortured to death. Officials have rejected the allegations as baseless.

Last month, a semi-official news agency said the son of an adviser to another defeated presidential candidate died after being beaten in jail. Mohsen Ruholamini, whose father advised conservative Mohsen Rezaie, was held in Kahrizak.

Rights groups say thousands of people, including senior pro-reform figures, were arrested after the presidential poll almost three months ago. Most of them have been freed but more than 200 remain in jail, according to the opposition.

(Editing by Jon Boyle)