Iran says 22,000 people arrested in protests have been pardoned by leader
Dubai, United Arab Emirates — Iran announced Monday that the country’s supreme leader has pardoned more than 22,000 people arrested during recent anti-government protests that have swept the Islamic Republic. There was no immediate independent confirmation of the massive release.
The statement by Iranian justice chief Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejehi offered for the first time a glimpse of the full extent of the government crackdown following protests over the September death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who had been detained by the country’s vice police. .
It also suggests that Iran’s theocracy now feels safe enough to admit the scale of the unrest, which represented one of the most serious challenges to the establishment since the aftermath of the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Tens of thousands have also been detained in the purges that followed the revolution.
However, anger remains in the country as it struggles with a collapsing national currency, the rial, economic hardship and uncertainty over its ties to the rest of the world after the collapse of the nuclear deal of Tehran in 2015 with world powers.
State news agency IRNA quoted Ejehi as announcing the figure on Monday. Iranian state media had previously suggested that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei could forgive many people getting angry in the protests, ahead of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, when the pious fast from dawn to dusk. Ramadan starts later next week.
Ejehi said a total of 82,656 prisoners and accused persons have been pardoned. Of those, some 22,628 were arrested amid the protests, he said. Those pardoned had not committed theft or violent crimes, he added. His comments suggest the true total of those detained in the protests is even higher.
In February, Iran acknowledged that “tens of thousands” had been arrested during the protests. Monday’s recognition of Ejehi offered even higher value than campaigners had previously cited. However, no mass prisoner releases have been documented in recent days by Iranian media or activists.
More than 19,700 people have been arrested during the protests, according to Human Rights Activists in Iran, a group that tracks the crackdown. At least 530 people were killed as authorities violently suppressed protests, the group said. Iran has not offered a death toll for months.
“From day one, there has been no transparent accounting of who has been arrested and imprisoned – before or after the mass protests of recent months – which is why there is no way to verify how many are released now,” said Jasmin Ramsey, deputy director of the American Center for Human Rights in Iran.
“We also know that more than five months after the death of (…) Mahsa Amini in police custody, not a single Iranian official has been held responsible for the massacres of street protesters, nor for the arbitrary imprisonment of dozens of thousands of people.
The judiciary’s announcement also came ahead of next week’s celebration of Nowruz, the Persian New Year. On Tuesday, some in Iran also mark a nearly 4,000-year-old Persian tradition known as the Fire Festival linked to the Zoroastrian religion. Hardliners discourage such celebrations, viewing them as pagan remnants.
There had been calls for anti-government protests around both events. While mass protests have died down in recent weeks, nightly chants against Iran’s theocracy can still be heard in parts of Iran’s capital, Tehran.
The announcement follows a major development last week, when Iran and Saudi Arabia said on Friday that, with the mediation of China, they had agreed to restore diplomatic relations and reopen embassies after a freeze. seven-year relationship. The deal could help end Yemen’s years-long war, which sees a Saudi-led coalition battling Iran-backed Houthi rebels who hold its capital, Sanaa. This has also helped boost the rial in recent days against the dollar.
Meanwhile, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko visited Tehran and met his Iranian counterpart, Ebrahim Raisi, on Monday. Iran provided the bomb-carrying drones that Russia is now using in its war against Ukraine. Lukashenko, the authoritarian ruler of Belarus, remains close to Russia, which used Belarusian territory to launch Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
Lukashenko said his country and Iran would sign an unspecified set of agreements worth $100 million.
Iran “opposes external pressure, tries to impose someone else’s will,” Lukashenko said, addressing his hosts. “And how, despite everything, you are developing modern technologies and nuclear energy. And, as we decided today with the Iranian president, we can be very useful to each other if we really join our efforts.
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