Iran police ordered to show ‘restraint’ at air disaster protests
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Iran police ordered to show ‘restraint’ at air disaster protests

Chief says force is showing ‘patience,’ Germany urges Iranian authorities to allow demonstrators ‘to express their opinions’ over downing of airliner

Iranians walk past a poster honoring the victims of a Ukrainian passenger jet accidentally shot down in the capital last week, in front of the Amirkabir University in the capital Tehran, on January 13, 2020.  (ATTA KENARE/AFP)
Iranians walk past a poster honoring the victims of a Ukrainian passenger jet accidentally shot down in the capital last week, in front of the Amirkabir University in the capital Tehran, on January 13, 2020. (ATTA KENARE/AFP)

Police in Tehran have been ordered to show “restraint” at demonstrations that erupted after the accidental shooting down of a Ukrainian passenger jet, the Iranian capital’s police chief said Monday.

“The police treated the people who had gathered with patience and tolerance” in a second night of demonstrations in Tehran on Sunday, said General Hossein Rahimi.

“The police did not shoot at the gatherings at all because a restraint order (had been issued) for police in the capital,” he said in a statement published by state television.

The protests have drawn the attention of the international community.

German Foreign Office spokeswoman Maria Adebahr said Iranians have the right to take to the streets to express their “grief and also their anger” after the plane disaster.

“The Iranian people must have the opportunity to protest peacefully and freely, and to express their opinions,” Adebahr told reporters at a regular government press conference.

“We are convinced this has to happen in a peaceful, free and unhindered way,” she said.

This image from a Sunday, Jan. 12, 2020 video provided by the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran shows a crowd fleeing police near Azadi, or Freedom, Square in Tehran, Iran (Center for Human Rights in Iran via AP)

On Saturday evening, a memorial at Tehran’s Amir Kabir University in honor of those killed turned into a demonstration that AFP correspondents said was attended by hundreds of students.

They shouted “death to liars” and demanded the resignation and prosecution of those responsible, Fars news agency reported, saying that police “dispersed” them.

Similar demonstrations were held in the Iranian capital again on Sunday night, according to unverified videos shared on social media, but it was difficult to assess how many people took part.

Adebahr said videos reportedly showing security forces cracking down on the demonstrations were “very worrying.”

“We urge the security forces to show the greatest possible restraint,” she added.

The Ukraine International Airlines plane bound for Kyiv was shot down shortly after take-off from Tehran on Wednesday, killing all 176 people on board.

Officials in Iran initially denied Western claims the Boeing 737 was downed by a missile, before acknowledging on Saturday that it had been shot down in a catastrophic error.

Iran has invited experts from Canada, France, Ukraine and the United States to take part in the investigation into the air disaster.

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has promised a “thorough investigation.”

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