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Iran To Air Confessions Of 'Organized Rioters' While Showing 'Compassion' Toward Others

Iranian president Hassan Rohani speaks at the National Insurance and Development Conference in Tehran, December 4, 2019

Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani claimed in a speech on Wednesday that some of the protesters who took to the streets across Iran in November had been "organized" by forces outside the country and promised Iranians that their "confessions will be aired" soon.

Speaking at a seminar at Tehran's Milad Tower the Iranian President alleged that these groups had been planning "for more than two years" to incite unrest during parliamentary elections (February 21) but took action sooner "by the order of their masters abroad" when protests against gasoline price hike gave them the opportunity.

At the same time, Rouhani proposed to free all those detainees who were ordinary protesters, simply shouting slogan or “burning tires”.

Meanwhile, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei on Wednesday agreed with the Supreme National Council’s proposal to consider ordinary citizens, accidentally killed in the protests as "martyrs" if they had no role in the “riots” and were only caught in the crossfire. Khamenei also asked that those who are suspects should be treated “with Islamic compassion”.

It appears Iran’s top leadership, facing an unprecedented political mess with hundreds killed during protests, has adopted a dual policy. On the one hand, by using public confessions of some detainees they want to stick to their initial story that foreigners incited the protests. On the other hand they try to show some leniency to appear generous and compassionate.

Iranian officials have repeatedly alleged that the protests which they call "riots" were incited by Iran's former royal family, the Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO), and foreign powers such as the U.S., Israel, and Saudi Arabia.

On December 10 a Revolutionary Guards commander, Mohammad-Esmail Kowsari, said authorities have informed him that some of the detainees have "confessed to having connections with Israel". Kowsari did not say what evidence t

However, Rouhani's advocacy of airing prisoners' "confessions" reminds many Iranians of the forced confessions of various political, social, and cultural figures who have appeared on the state-run television in the past four decades to make self-incriminating confessions and to accuse others. Some of these individuals have said after being freed or leaving the country that their so-called "confessions" were made under torture or great duress.

To justify the brutal crackdown on the protesters, in his latest speech Rouhani said there were two groups of protesters, those who were "organized", carried arms or participated in looting and destruction of public property and others who were "innocent" and "were arrested for no reason".

"If someone has broken the law, for instance, set a tire on fire, I don't consider this a crime. We should not keep them in custody although what they did was not good. A young person went there and shouted slogans, he must not be treated harshly," Rouhani said and claimed that some of the protesters had been carrying firearms.

There is still no evidence that protesters used firearms against the security forces. In fact, the protests were initially very peaceful but turned violent when armed security forces and plainclothes agents attacked protesters brutally, trying to disperse them, and shot them from close-range.

Rouhani also said he has ordered a three-member committee consisting of the Vice-President in Legal Affairs, Interior Minister, and Justice Minister to give him a report on the arrests and the deaths of protesters.

According to Amnesty International Iranian security forces killed at least 208 protesters including at least 13 children between the ages of 14 and 18 during the November protests against the gasoline price hikes. Thousands of protesters were badly beaten up and at least 7,000 were arrested and the Internet was shut down for days to prevent the news and footage of the crackdown on protesters to be sent to foreign-based media.

Some Iranian Lawmakers have called on the authorities to give an official record of the arrests and death toll of the protests. Reformist lawmaker Parvaneh Salahshouri called on the authorities on Monday to form a "truth-finding committee" to investigate the killing of the protesters including children such as the 14-year-old Nikta Esfandani who was shot to death in the west of Tehran.

According to the outspoken reformist lawmaker Mahmoud Sadeghi security and intelligence bodies have even arrested some university students who had not been present in the protests as a "preventative measure" ahead of the December 15 Student Day rallies.