Iran acknowledges ‘tens of thousands’ detained in anti-government unrest, grants some amnesty

Protests following the death of in Tehran, Iran on September 21, 2022. (AP photo)
Protests following the death of in Tehran, Iran on September 21, 2022. (AP photo)

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Iran’s supreme leader reportedly orders an amnesty or reduction in prison sentences for “tens of thousands” of people detained amid nationwide anti-government protests shaking the country, acknowledging for the first time the scale of the crackdown.

The decree by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, part of a yearly pardoning the supreme leader does before the anniversary of Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, comes as authorities have yet to say how many people they detained in the demonstrations. State media offers a list of caveats over the order as well that means those with ties abroad or facing internationally criticized spying charges wouldn’t be eligible.

State media reports about the decree offer no explanation for the decision by Khamenei, who has final say on all matters of state in Iran. However, prisons and detention facilities already had faced overcrowding in the country after years of protests over economic issues and other matters.

Authorities also don’t name any of those who had been pardoned or seen shorter sentences. Instead, state television for instance refers to the demonstrations as being a “foreign-backed riot,” rather than homegrown anger over the September death of Masha Amini, an Iranian-Kurdish woman detained by the country’s morality police. Anger also has been spreading over the collapse of the Iranian rial against the US dollar, as well as Tehran arming Russia with bomb-carrying drones in its war on Ukraine.

More than 19,600 people have been arrested during the protests, according to Human Rights Activists in Iran, a group that’s been tracking the crackdown. At least 527 people have been killed as authorities violently suppressed demonstrations, the group says. Iran hasn’t offered a death toll for months. It already has executed at least four people detained amid the protests after internationally criticized trials.

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