Iran indicts 1,000 over unrest, plans public trials -report
( Reuters )
Iran's hardline judiciary will hold public trials of about 1,000 people indicted over unrest in Tehran, a semi-official news agency said on Monday, intensifying efforts to crush weeks of protests ignited by Mahsa Amini's death in police custody.
One of the boldest challenges to Iran's clerical leaders since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, the almost seven-week-old protests have continued despite a deadly crackdown and increasingly severe warnings, with the Revolutionary Guards bluntly telling demonstrators to stay off the streets.
In a video shared on social media, a woman said her 22-year-old son had been handed a death sentence two days ago in an initial court hearing and appealed for help. The widely followed Twitter account that shared the video, 1500tasvir, said he had been tried by the "rioters' tribunal".
Iranian leaders have called the protests a plot against the Islamic Republic by enemies including the United States, vowing tough action against protesters they have described as "rioters".
Protesters from all walks of life have taken part, with students and women playing a prominent role, waving and burning headscarves since the 22-year-old Amini died in the custody of morality police who arrested her for "inappropriate attire".
The semi-official Tasnim news agency, citing Tehran's chief justice, said the trials of about 1,000 people "who have carried out acts of sabotage in recent events, including assaulting or martyring security guards, (and) setting fire to public property", would take place in a Revolutionary Court.
The trials had been scheduled for this week and would be held in public, it said.
It was not immediately clear if the 1,000 indictments announced on Monday included 315 protesters whom the official IRNA news agency reported on Saturday had been charged in Tehran, at least five of whom are accused of capital offences.
In the video shared on social media, the mother of 22-year-old Mohammad Ghobadlou said he had been interrogated without the presence of a lawyer.
"My son is ill, court doesn't even allow his lawyer to enter the courtroom...They have interrogated him without an attorney present and, in the very first session, sentenced him to death and wanting to execute this ASAP," said the woman, who did not give her name.
Reuters could not independently verify her account.
There was no official comment on the case.
Stepping up warnings against the protesters, Revolutionary Guards commander Hossein Salami warned them on Saturday not to come to the streets, declaring it the "last day of the riots".
Saeid Golkar of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga said the warning was a clear message the Islamic Republic saw the protests "as a very regime-threatening event". Continued protests are a "sign that people are more determined to challenge the regime compared to the past", he said.
"Unfortunately..., history has shown us they are willing to use any level of violence to stay in power."
The Revolutionary Guards, which report directly to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, have yet to be used to quell the unrest. So far, the authorities have mostly drawn on security forces including the volunteer Basij militia.
The activist HRANA news agency said on Saturday 283 protesters had been killed in the unrest, including 44 minors. Some 34 members of the security forces were also killed.
Protests began to gather again on Monday at universities in Tehran, according to the Tasvir1500 Twitter account.
The protests have been fuelled by the deaths of several teenaged girls reportedly killed while demonstrating.
On Monday, people chanted against the government during a gathering at the grave of a 16-year-old Kurdish girl killed by security forces in the city of Sanandaj, capital of Kurdistan province, according rights organisation Hengaw.
Several Western powers have condemned Tehran over Amini's death and the crackdown, imposing new sanctions on Iranian officials.
Germany's foreign minister said on Sunday that Germany and the European Union were examining whether to classify the Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organisation.
Iran's foreign ministry said Germany's stance on the matter was "unconstructive, irresponsible and illegal".
The United States placed the Revolutionary Guards on its list of foreign terrorist organisations in 2019.