Tehran’s hard-line provisional Friday Prayer leader, Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, has explicitly threatened protesters in Iran with the death penalty.
On February 2, Khatami said that according to Shia religious rules, the just sentence for those who “pour into the street” and “oppose the ruler” is the death penalty. He described those who rise against the establishment as “baghi,” an Arabic word that literally means tyrant or aggressor.
Khatami was referring to the recent protests against tyranny, poverty, and unemployment that broke out on December 28 in Iran’s holiest Shi’ite city, Mashhad, and soon spread across the country.
The protesters, rallying against economic hardship, chanted slogans against Supreme Leader ayatollah Ali Khamenei, calling for the downfall of the theocratic regime.
Lambasting authorities for releasing an unknown number of protesters detained nationwide, Khatami said, “The honorable authority says in an interview that all protesters have been freed. This is pampering them when they should be punished.”
Khatami, who is renowned for his raging speeches, continued, “Those who had been hoodwinked and deceived should be awakened, punished, and commit themselves in writing to refrain from further devilry and being pawns at the hands of rioters.”
During the recent uprising in Iran, at least 25 people were killed and thousands detained.
On January 6, Tehran Prosecutor-General Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi reported that 70 detainees had been freed on bail.
Judiciary spokesman Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejei echoed Dolatabadi’s comments, saying, “If there were any detentions during the riots, we had insisted to keep them out of prisons lest it become a criminal record for the deceived rioters.”
Khatami targeted both Mohseni-Ejei and Dolatabadi in his speech. “The honorable official gives an interview and says all detainees were released. They should be warned in order to see that they have been wrong; since the insurgents, whoever they might be, either university or seminary students, should be punished,” he said.
Khatami called for hanging those allegedly responsible for the recent uprising, despite no reliable sources concerning the number of people detained during the protests.
While a pro-reformist Tehran MP had put the figure at 3,700, his fellow legislator, Allahyar Malekshahi, who led a parliament delegation visiting notorious prison Evin, said around 5,000 had been arrested.
Moreover, there have been reports that at least four of the detained protesters were allegedly killed after being battered by intelligence agents while in custody.
Judiciary officials have dismissed the allegations. They insist those who died behind bars were not related to the protests, saying two were addicts and drug dealers who committed suicide and two others were terrorists killed in armed clashes with the security forces.