TEHRAN, Iran — Forty people were arrested in the central Iranian city of Yazd after clashing with police during protests against a petrol price hike, and a policeman died of a gunshot wound from clashes a day earlier, state media reported Sunday.
Those detained were “disrupters” accused of carrying out acts of vandalism and most of them were not locals, the semi-official ISNA news agency quoted the province’s public prosecutor Mohammad Hadadzadeh as saying.
“Following the change in petrol prices some people voiced their opposition with calm gatherings, but then some who were mostly non-native and non-Yazdi carried out acts of vandalism with ill-intent in some parts of Yazd city,” he said.
ISNA did not specify when the arrests were made, only saying they were carried out recently.
In Kermanshah, a policeman died Sunday after being shot in a clash with “rioters and thugs” in western Iran during protests against the price hikes, state news agency IRNA reported.
Major Iraj Javaheri died following a confrontation with armed attackers during unrest in the city of Kermanshah on Saturday, provincial police chief Ali Akbar Javidan said, cited by IRNA.
Protests flared across Iran on Friday hours after it was announced the price of petrol would be increased by 50 percent for the first 60 liters and 300 percent for anything above that each month.
They continued on Saturday, with motorists blocking highways in major cities and creating traffic jams and people attacking public property.
Earlier Sunday, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei blamed “thugs” for damaging property and said “all the centers of the world’s wickedness against us have cheered” the street protests.
In a speech aired on state television, Khamenei said “some lost their lives and some centers were damaged” in the unrest.
Khamenei said that “I am not an expert and there are different opinions but I had said that if the heads of the three branches make a decision I will support it.
“The heads of the branches made a decision with the backing of expert opinion and naturally it must be implemented,” he said.
“Some people would definitely get upset over this decision… but damaging and setting fire (to property) is not something (normal) people would do. It is hooligans.”