Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has called for leniency for protesters who took to the streets over a recent fuel price hike, saying that those who did not commit grave offenses or incited the riots should be pardoned.
“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,” Rouhani said Wednesday. The Iranian leader acknowledged that “some” of the activists who were placed into custody in wake of the unrest that swept through the country last month “are innocent and should be freed.”
“What they’ve done was not right but… we must not be strict with these people.”
While saying that those who got caught up in the mayhem and might have broken the law at the spur of the moment should be forgiven, Rouhani stressed that there would be no clemency for armed “criminals” who fueled economic tensions 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,” Rouhani said.
The president’s words were echoed by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who called on the judiciary to handle arrested protesters “in a way that is closer to Islamic mercy.”
Khamenei said that Iranian prosecutors, while looking into the cases of slain protesters, must take into account their background, adding that those who would be found not guilty in instigating the turmoil should be considered “martyrs.” This means their families would be eligible for compensation allocated by the Foundation of Martyrs and Veteran Affairs, Khamenei said, as cited by IRNA news agency.
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Teheran has blamed the US and its allies in the Middle East for masterminding the mass protests, marred by widespread rioting and looting. Iranian courts have so far awarded over $130 billion in damages to Iranians who have been affected by the disturbances, with Teheran suggesting they should be paid by Washington.
At least eight people accused of having ties to the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) were arrested in Iran last month, and charged with “carrying out CIA orders” during the protests and transferring information abroad.
It is estimated that between 130,000 and 200,000 Iranians have taken part in the protests across the country.
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