Iran supreme leader conditionally 'pardons' protesters

Monday, 6 February 2023 (13:56 IST)
Iran's supreme leader has issued an amnesty for "tens of thousands" of prisoners, including protesters arrested during the anti-government rallies, Iranian state-controlled media reported on Sunday, as the country grapples with nationwide protests ongoing since September.
The pardon and reduction of sentences, reportedly issued by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was however said to exclude dual nationals and those charged with "corruption on earth," a capital charge many of those arrested in relation to the protests face. Defendants charged with "spying for foreign agencies" or those tied to "groups hostile to" Iran would also be excluded.The amnesties come after months of authorities cracking down on anti-government protests which have gripped Iran.
Many of those convicted or charged in connection with the protests face allegations talking about them being enemies of the state or the faith, or both, with the two almost indistinguishable in Iran's political system.
The protests were sparked by the death of 22-year-old Jina Mahsa Amini, a Kurdish woman, while in moral police custody last September.
Executions related to the protests have since been carried out, with thousands more detained and hundreds reportedly killed during the unrest.
In parallel to the announcement of the pardons, authorities on Sunday arrested a female journalist for reformist newspaper Hammihan. Elnaz Mohammadi is the sister of Elahe Mohammadi, a female prominent journalist who was also arrested last September after reporting on Amini's funeral.
What do we know about the pardons?
Khamenei, who gets the final say on all state matters in the republic, authorized the pardons and reduced sentences ahead of the 44th anniversary of the 1979 Islamic revolution, Iranian state media reported.
Amensties announced ahead of the revolution's anniversary are an annual common practice. However, their timing this year is significant, as the Islamic Republic's ironclad crackdown on the civil unrest has thus far failed to entirely quell what is believed to be the biggest challenge to the regime since 1979.
The decision was taken based on a proposal by Iran's Judiciary Chief Gholamhossein Mohseni-Ejei, Iran's IRNA state news agency reported.
State-controlled media quoted deputy judiciary chief Sadeq Rahimi as saying that in order to be pardoned, defendants would have to "express regret for their activities and give a written commitment for not repeating those activities."
Media reports however did not give details on just how many arrested on the backdrop of the protests would be pardoned or have their sentences reduced.
Rights groups estimate that some 20,000 have thus far been arrested in relation to the demonstrations. The Norway-based Iran Human Rights group estimates that around 100 detainees could face the death sentence, while the French AFP news agency's tally puts those already sentenced to death at 18.
Former officials call for change
Separately this weekend, two former state officials called for political reform in the country to meet the protesters' demands.
Former President Mohammad Khatami acknowledged in a Sunday statement the "widespread discontent" in the country, saying he hoped that authorities would "change [their] approach and accept reforms." Khatami leads the reformist movement in the country.
Meanwhile, former premier Mir Hossein Mousavi urged for "a fundamental transformation" as per the protest movement. Placed on house arrest since 2011, after leading the 2009 Green Movement, Mousavi is considered among the country's main opposition figures.

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