Iran's supreme leader pardons arrested protesters, state media says

Amnesty said to include people held over anti-government rallies

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has reportedly ordered an amnesty for prisoners accused of demonstrating against the Iranian regime. Wana / Reuters
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Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has pardoned "tens of thousands" of prisoners, including many arrested in recent anti-government protests over security-related charges, state media reported on Sunday.

Mr Khamenei was said to have been acting on a request from the head of the judiciary.

"Prisoners not facing charges of spying for foreign agencies, having direct contact with foreign agents, committing intentional murder and injury, committing destruction and arson of state property, or not having a private plaintiff in their case will be pardoned," state media said.

It is the first time Tehran has recognised the scale of its crackdown on protesters, although it has not said how many are behind bars nor offered a death toll for several months.

According to the HRANA activist news agency, about 20,000 people have been arrested over anti-government protests sparked by the death in police custody of Mahsa Amini in September.

Many of those detained are taken to secret prisons and other unknown locations, while others are held without charge in overcrowded sites such as Evin prison in Tehran, notorious for torture and other human rights violations.

The pardons were announced in honour of the anniversary of Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution. There was no comment or reason given for the pardons from Mr Khamenei.

People who buy or sell firearms, drugs and alcohol smugglers and those found guilty of crimes against "internal or external security" are excluded from the amnesty.

The judiciary did not name any specific people included in the pardon.

More than 500 people have been killed since the wave of protests began, most shot dead by security forces and members of the Basij, a paramilitary branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

Some families of the dead have also been pressured into silence and summoned for questioning after speaking out against the regime, according to human rights groups.

Four protesters have been executed and dozens more are on death row accused of joining the protests, with many convicted in what activists and human rights organisations have condemned as sham trials.

In one instance, a young man executed last month for supposed involvement in a murder was given only 15 minutes to plead his case.

The judiciary has allowed some appeals but continues to pursue the death penalty.

In January, Amnesty International called on Iran to "immediately" quash the death sentence handed to three protesters subjected to "gruesome torture".

It said they had been sexually abused and forced to confess under torture.

All of the executed protesters were accused of murdering security guards, and found guilty of moharebeh, or enmity against God.

Authorities also often accuse government dissidents or dual citizens of foreign espionage with no accompanying evidence.

Last month, Iran executed British-Iranian citizen Ali Reza Akbari who had been charged with spying for Britain.

Updated: February 05, 2023, 3:50 PM