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Rouhani Aide Says Government Cannot Announce Iran Protest Death Toll

Riot police tries to disperse people as they protest on a highway against increased gas price in Tehran, Iran November 16, 2019.

Iranian President's Chief-of-Staff Mahmoud Vaezi on Wednesday said the administration has been informed of the death toll of the November protests but the announcement has to be made by the Coroner's Office and the Joint Staff of the Armed Forces.

Speaking at the sideline of a cabinet meeting Vaezi said the administration has the information but is not responsible for its announcement.

"It has been decided that the Coroners office and Joint Staff [of the Armed Forces] make thorough investigations and announce [the death toll] in a way that it is completely clear for the people," Vaezi said.

"The numbers that are stated are not correct in any way. At the moment, the Coroners Office and the Joint Staff are making thorough investigations because precise figures should be announced to the public. For instance, how many of the [killed protesters] were ordinary people or how many men and women," the President's Chief-of-Staff said.

More than two months after the crackdown on protests that engulfed Iran in mid-November, Iranian authorities have not yet announced the death toll and there is a huge variance in the unofficial reports of the media and human rights organizations. They have so far refused to announce the number of detainees. Radio Farda estimates more than 8,000 citizens were arrested.

A Reuters report on December 23, which cited three unnamed sources close to Khamenei's office, said the Supreme Leader had personally authorized the use of force to quell the unrest. According to the report, security forces and police killed about 1,500 protesters including 400 women and at least 17 teenagers. Iranian officials have unanimously refuted this figure, saying the death toll was much lower.

The U.S. Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook on December 5 stated that Iranian government forces killed more than 1,000 protesters but other officials have on several occasions cited the Reuters' figure in their comments.

Kalemeh website, close to Mir-Hossein Mousavi, a reformist leader under house arrest since 2011, in a report on January 2 said based on "classified bulletins" 631 protesters were killed in the protests. Human rights groups have compiled an online list of nearly 550 confirmed victims so far.