Iran announces amnesty, but it may not spare many protesters

Iran was set to offer limited pardons or commutations to some Iranian prisoners, including some protesters swept up in recent mass protests, state media reported on Sunday, but the move offered little hope. freedom to the vast majority of political prisoners.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei will release or reduce the sentences of tens of thousands of prisoners, including those arrested in recent protests and those convicted of other crimes, several state-controlled news agencies have announced. the state. But the long list of warnings made it doubtful that many protesters would benefit, prompting rights campaigners to call the amnesty a deception: the announcement said it would not apply to anyone convicted for a series of serious charges, as rights groups say most of the protesters were.

Excluded are those convicted of espionage, armed action, murder or injury, membership of certain groups, having contact with agents of foreign intelligence services or destroying public property, among other crimes, according to Fars, a state-controlled news agency. Also disqualified, according to the report, are prisoners convicted of being “an enemy of God” – a charge leveled against most of the 19 protesters who The New York Times has confirmed were either executed or are now in the death corridor.

Other detainees will only be released “after expressing remorse and pledging not to repeat these security violations”, Fars said.

Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the Center for Human Rights in Iran, said while it was difficult to assess government promises before seeing the results of the amnesty, at most a small number of protesters low level could be released.

“The pardons seem to be more propaganda than really addressing the large number of political prisoners,” he said. “We should really focus on the fact that there are something like 10,000 political prisoners in Iran. While they are in prison, these pardons are really not substantial or effective in addressing protesters’ grievances.

Iran’s prisons and courtrooms were already overcrowded before the protests began, and Ghaemi suggested the pardons were a way for judicial authorities to weed out some of the more minor cases to focus on prosecutions highest priority.

Towns across Iran erupted in protest in mid-September after the death in custody of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish Iranian woman arrested by vice squad for what they said was a code violation Iran’s conservative Islamic dress. The uprising first targeted these rules, then all of Iran’s leaders. For months, Iranians clamoring for a new secular system have been locked in a bloody battle with their authoritarian rulers, who have tried to crush them with bullets, beatings and arrests.

Rights groups say security forces have killed at least 500 people since the protests began, including 50 children. According to the United Nations, at least 14,000 people have been arrested. But with courtrooms closed to foreigners and the government tight-lipped on the crackdown, Sunday’s announcement appears to be a rare official acknowledgment that scores of people have been arrested in what Iran calls the “riots”.

Iran has accused foreign countries and their spies of being behind the protests, while offering few real concessions to protesters. Iran hinted that some confidence would prevail over the amnesty announcement, with Fars describing the protests as “nearing their end”.

Besides continuing unrest in Sistan-Balochistan, an impoverished eastern region, the street protests that have rocked Iran have died down amid executions and violence. Even as the government prepared to release some prisoners, other actions showed it was not letting up the pressure, which added to the rage of many ordinary Iranians.

On Sunday, authorities arrested a journalist whose twin sister, also a journalist, was already in prison due to her reporting on Ms Amini’s funeral in September.

Meanwhile, the government has stoked fury by dispatching riot police to northwestern Iran, where thousands of people have been left stranded in the cold after a devastating earthquake last week in Khoy, even as he blocked crowdsourced aid from getting there.

And on social media in recent days, Iranians were reacting with horror to photographs of an emaciated Iranian rights defender, Dr Farhad Meisami, who has been jailed since 2018 and on a hunger strike for four months.

Limited pardons seem unlikely to quell such anger or satisfy protesters who have demanded the overthrow of Ayatollah Khamenei. It offers an amnesty every year around this time to mark the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution; generally it does not cover political prisoners.

The head of the Iranian judiciary proposes the criteria for amnesty every year.

“In recent events, some, especially young people, have committed crimes and misbehaved due to enemy propaganda and indoctrination, causing trouble for themselves and their families,” wrote this year to Ayatollah Khamenei Gholamhossein Mohseni-Ejei, who currently heads the judiciary. amnesty, according to state media. “But now that the schemes of foreign enemies, counter-revolutionary groups and those against the population are exposed, many of them are expressing regret and asking for forgiveness.”


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