Iran’s judiciary says it will deal decisively with protesters

DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran’s courts will deal strongly with anyone who causes disturbances or commits crimes during a wave of anti-government protests, the judiciary said on Tuesday, signaling that authorities intend to hand down tough sentences to convicted protesters.

One of the biggest challenges to Iran’s clerical leaders since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, the protests have already continued for eight weeks despite tight security measures and stern warnings from security forces.

More than 1,000 people have been charged in Tehran province alone in connection with what the government calls the “riots.”

“Now, the public, even non-riot protesters, are demanding that justice and security institutions deal with the few people who caused unrest in a firm, dissuasive and lawful manner,” said judiciary spokesman Masood Setayesi.

Anti-government protests erupted in September after the death of Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini, who had been detained by morality police for allegedly violating the Islamic Republic’s strict dress code imposed on women.

The activist news agency HRANA reported that 318 protesters had been killed in the unrest by Saturday, including 49 minors. Thirty-eight members of the security forces had also been killed, it said.

State media reported last month that more than 46 members of the security forces, including police officers, had been killed. Government officials have not provided an estimate of the wider death toll.

Iranian leaders have accused enemies, including the United States, of fomenting the unrest. Hardline Iranian lawmakers urged the judiciary to “deal decisively” with the perpetrators.

“How long can we put up with this?” Setagyesi said.

People from all walks of life have taken part in the nationwide protests, with students and women playing a prominent role, waving and burning headscarves.

Two Iranian journalists face charges of collusion against national security and propaganda against the state, Setayesi said, adding that the two were in jail on temporary arrest warrants and their case was about to be completed.

One of those facing charges is Niloofar Hamedi, who worked for the pro-reform daily Sharq and was the first to show the world that all was not well with Amini with a photo of her parents embracing in a Tehran hospital.

The second journalist is Elaheh Mohammadi, who covered Amini’s funeral in her Kurdish hometown of Saqez, where the protests began. About 300 Iranian journalists last month demanded their release.

(Reporting by Dubai Newsroom Writing by Michael Georgy Editing by Alex Richardson, Angus MacSwan and Alison Williams)

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