Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Thursday called George Floyd’s killing “brutal” and criticized US President Donald Trump for posing for photos while holding a Bible.
Rouhani in a televised speech said Floyd “was killed in the most brutal way.”
“We express sympathy toward the American people who are on the streets while harshly condemning the crime,” he said, referring to Floyd’s death after a white police officer was caught on video pressing his knee to Floyd’s neck.
Rouhani also made reference to the clearing of peaceful protesters from a park outside the White House with chemical agents and flash bang grenades so that Trump could walk to a church for a photo opportunity.
“It is a shame that the president stands with a Bible when he plans to act against his people,” Rouhani said.
Iranian officials regularly take advantage of protests in the US to criticize the administration, even though Iran itself in November put down nationwide demonstrations by killing hundreds, arresting thousands and disrupting internet access.
Iranian state television has repeatedly aired images of the US unrest.
The comment came a day after Iran’s supreme leader said Floyd’s killing shows the “true face” of the United States and its oppression of the peoples of the world, including its own.
“The fact that a policeman has cold-bloodedly pressed his knee on the throat of a black man until he died and that other policemen watched on without doing anything is nothing knew,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a televised speech.
“It is the true face of America, it’s what it has always done all over the world — in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and other countries, and before that in Vietnam. It is the normal course of action of the United States, it’s the true face of their regime,” Khamenei said.
“These are realities that have always been camouflaged or hidden, but they are not new,” he said in a speech on the 31st anniversary of the death of his predecessor, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
Protests sparked by Floyd’s killing by a white police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota, have raged across the United States for a week and US President Donald Trump has ordered the military to intervene.
The once-in-a-generation unrest has coincided with the world’s deadliest coronavirus outbreak in the United States.
Epidemiologists have voiced concern that the thousands of people protesting at close quarters, coughing violently when hit by police tear gas, will lead to a new upsurge in infections.
“Thank God, (US leaders) have already been discredited by their actions — their handling of the coronavirus has discredited and shamed them around the world,” Khamenei said of the 106,000 deaths from COVID-19 already registered in the United States.
Iran had itself faced strong criticism from the US when it was reeling from one of the world’s highest COVID-19 death tolls earlier this year.
As of Wednesday, Iran’s health ministry declared a total of 8,012 deaths, although that figure has been dismissed by some as under-reported, including by Washington.
Tensions between Tehran and Washington escalated sharply in 2018, after Trump unilaterally withdrew the US from a landmark nuclear agreement and reimposed crippling sanctions.