Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has tried to distance himself from a controversial move of raising gasoline prices that led to days of widespread protests in Iran and the death of more than 140 protesters.
He claimed on Wednesday that he did not know when and how the price of gasoline would be increased, while on November 15 when the move was announced, officials said the decision was made a day earlier by the heads of the three government branches, including the president of the country.
During a trip to Eastern Azerbaijan Province, Rouhani said that he delegated the timing and the manner of the price increase to his interior minister and was caught with surprise morning of November 15 when he learned the price hike had gone into effect. He added that he asked the interior minister not to even tell him when gasoline price hike would take place.
The Interior Minister also heads the National Security Council and is said to have been also in charge of dealing with protests. Since then Rouhani has echoed remarks by the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei that protesters were “thugs” and serving foreign powers.
Protests in Iran began immediately on the same day and quickly spread to dozens of cities. Authorities quickly resorted to use of lethal force, including shooting protesters at close range. At least 143 people were killed, thousands injured and more than 7,000 were arrested, according to parliament member.
The United States, some European countries and international rights watchdogs have criticized the Islamic Republic, but few concrete steps have been taken so far to hold the Tehran government responsible.