Senior Iranian officials have begun making statements aimed at somehow explaining away the killing of hundreds of protesters in November and detaining thousands.
The secretary of the top security council on December 12 claimed without evidence that 85 percent of those killed were not involved in the protests and might have been shot by protesters. On the same day, the general prosecutor said there could be some “innocent” people among those arrested and killed.
Referring to the protests as "riots'" the prosecutor Mohammad Jafar Montazeri reiterated that in a full-scale riot, innocent people might be detained, as well.
However, Montazeri stopped short of explaining what has happened to the “innocent” people who have wrongly been arrested. "We have been trying from day one to separate innocent people from the rioters, as swiftly as possible," he said without further elaboration.
If the authorities are certain that there are innocent people, they have not publicized any release of prisoners and no one has come forward saying he has been freed from detention.
Radio Farda estimates that at least 8,000 people have been detained since mass protests broke out on November 15., and even in recent days there have been reports of more detentions.
While Amnesty International has confirmed the death of at least 208, opposition groups have put the number around 400 and U.S. officials have said it could be as high as 1,000.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on December 6 expressed alarm at the continuing lack of transparency about casualties and the treatment of thousands of detainees, as well as ongoing arrests across the country.
The High Commissioner said she is "extremely concerned about their physical treatment, violations of their right to due process, and the possibility that a significant number of them may be charged with offenses that carry the death penalty, in addition to the conditions under which they are held."
The protests, triggered by an overnight unprecedented increase in gasoline prices, broke out on Friday, November 15, and soon spread to more than 100 cities across the country.
In a heavy-handed bloody response, the Islamic Republic security forces backed by armed plainclothesmen and the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), managed to suppress the rallies and disperse protesters within a few days.
Nonetheless, there is numerous videos circulating on social media that show the security forces directly shooting at protesters, often at close range.