Tehran’s Prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi says the Iranian Judiciary has indicted 175 protesters arrested during recent widespread protests.
The Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) quoted Dolatabadi as saying on March 16 that the protests have caused “loses and damages’’ in 41 Iranian cities out of the total number of 90 cities where massive protests took place in December and January.
It is not clear if Dolatabdi was speaking only about indictments in Tehran or nationwide. But customarily, officials would not give out important information outside their jurisdictions.
Dolatabadi added “Initial verdicts have been issued for 21 of the detainees, 16 have got prison sentences, and three have been acquitted, while some have to pay penalties.”
In the Iranian legal system, the prosecutor indicts the suspects and hands them an initial verdict before they are sent to the courts.
Based on official figures, about 5000 people were arrested in the late December and early January protests in Iran, including over 400 in the capital, Tehran.
Officials say the number of those killed during the protests at 25, while one more detainee, Sina Qanbari, died in custody. Prison officials say he committed suicide.
At least five others also died in prisons in other cities, but prison wardens deny their death in custody.
Protests started in late December 2017 in Mashhad and soon spread to over 100 Iranian cities. Protesters chanted slogans against state officials and some demanded the return of monarchy or called for regime change.
But hardline followers of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei try to portray the unrest as just economic protest or the result of conspiracy by foreigners.
Tehran’s prosecutor pointed out on March 16 that the protesters had economic demands and did not oppose the entirety of the regime. He said, “It was an opportunity for the state officials to learn that they have to face the people’s reaction if they fail to fulfill their responsibilities.”
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his close aides also reiterated that the protests had economic motives, but President Hassan Rouhani has said that protesters had also political and social demands.
Khamenei himself and some other Iranian officials have said that the US, Saudi Arabia, and Israel had organized the protests.
Meanwhile, Hossein Dehqan, a former defense minister who is currently Khamenei’s adviser, said on March 16 that “The enemies had plans to create insecurity and mutiny in Iran in January, February and March, in coordination with some elements in Iran and abroad.”
Previously, MP Mahmoud Sadeqi, had quoted intelligence officials as saying that “No foreigners were involved in recent unrests.”
Over 20 Dervishes Indicted
Tehran’s prosecutor also said that over 20 dervishes including the bus driver who recently ran over three policemen during a clash between dervishes and the police have also been indicted.
The driver, Mohammad Salas, said during his trial that he lost control of his behavior after his head was fractured in 17 places during clashes with the police.
Reports from Tehran say that more than 500 dervishes have been arrested during the clashes in February. Some of them are badly beaten and have broken head, jaw and teeth, reports say.
Clashes took place after police and plainclothes agents attacked a gathering by the dervishes to defend the house of their leader Nurali Tabandeh.
Meanwhile, Mohammad Raji, one of the arrested dervishes died in custody. Majzooban, a website that covers the news about dervishes, reported that he was beaten during interrogation. Police refutes the claim and says Raji was killed during the clashes.
The Center to Defend Human Rights in Iran, which is chaired by Noble Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi, said in a statement about the clash between the dervishes and the police that “The reason for many violent incidents during street protests is the presence and intervention of Baseej militia.” Baseej, is an organized vigilante group controlled by hardliners in Iranian government, and maintained by Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC).