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Iran's Rouhani calls for release of innocent, unarmed protesters

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in Tehran, Iran on 2 October 2019 [IRANIAN PRESIDENCY/Anadolu Agency]
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in Tehran, Iran on 2 October 2019 [IRANIAN PRESIDENCY/Anadolu Agency]

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani yesterday called for leniency for people arrested during the protests over the recent fuel price hike for minor offenses.

“There are some who… have committed an offense, not a crime. Someone has set fire to a tire; we must not keep them for what they’ve done,” said Rouhani acknowledging that “some” of those taken into custody in the wake of the unrest that swept through parts of the country “are innocent and should be freed”.

In reference to elements of the protesters who took part in rioting, Rouhani said: “What they’ve done was not right but… we must not be strict with these people.” However, he stressed that there would be no clemency for armed “criminals” who incited the rioting on behalf of what he called their foreign masterminds. “Their masters abroad told them that now is the time, carry it out… these people must be dealt with,” he said.

READ: Iran says death tolls from protests ‘exaggerated’

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khamenei also called on the authorities to show “Islamic mercy” towards the accused. Khamenei added that those slain who were found not guilty in instigating the turmoil should be considered “martyrs”. Meaning their families would be eligible to receive blood money compensation allocated by the Foundation of Martyrs and Veteran Affairs.

According to Russia Today, Iranian courts have so far awarded over $130 billion in damages to Iranians who have been affected by the unrest, with Tehran suggesting they should be paid by Washington, whom the Iranian authorities accuse along with its allies of sabotaging the protests and encouraging rioting and looting. Last month, eight people were arrested and charged with “carrying out CIA orders” in inciting others towards rioting and transferring information overseas.

Press TV reported that the Iranian judiciary says around 300 individuals currently remain in custody. Gholam-Hossein Esmaili, the judiciary’s spokesman, said on Tuesday that those detainees who are found to have been among “saboteurs” will face imminent prosecution, while the rest will be released as soon as possible.

READ: Iran acknowledges security forces killed protesters in nationwide unrest

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