Iran says West using protesters to threaten elections

Ismail Khatib referred to an 'enemy' with plans for the one-year anniversary of protests

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei casts his vote to elect a new president in his office in Tehran in 2009. AFP
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Iran's Intelligence Minister on Sunday said its security forces are preparing for the one-year anniversary of the outbreak of major nationwide protests and accused western powers of using the demonstrations to destabilise the country ahead of next year's elections.

“The most important plan of the enemy is to destabilise and reduce participation in the elections,” Ismail Khatib said, the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported.

“Although they have plans for the anniversary of the riots, their main goals is the elections,” he said, adding Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Basij paramilitary force should work towards “authority and great victory”.

Tehran accused the West, specifically US and Israel, of being behind the protests which swept across the country last autumn following the death of Mahsa Amini while in the custody of the morality police.

It refers to the protesters as “rioters” and has executed several convicted of “corruption on Earth” and of murdering members of the Basij, which responded to the demonstration with brutal force.

More than 500 people were killed and several were executed for joining the protests.

Demonstrations have largely died down and authorities have stepped up a crackdown on civilians, increasing surveillance of women without the mandatory hijab and summoning the families of killed protesters.

Iran has parliamentary elections scheduled for March, the first to be held since the protests began.

Iran has held regular presidential and parliamentary elections since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

But a clerical body vets candidates – disqualifying any seen as disloyal to the Islamic Republic – and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has the final say on all major policies.

It opened candidate registration earlier this month.

More than 7,000 candidates were disqualified ahead of the last elections in 2020 – about half of those who had tried to run, according to AP.

The turnout for that election was the lowest since 1979, with just over 42 per cent of eligible voters casting ballots.

Also on Sunday, the intelligence minister said some European “spies” are being held on death row.

Swedish-Iranian doctor Ahmadreza Djlalali was sentenced to death in October 2017, accused of corruption on Earth through espionage and collaboration with Israel.

He maintains his innocence and is still being held in solitary confinement in Tehran's notorious Evin prison, known for its high population of foreign and dual-citizen hostages, as well as some of Iran's most educated lawyers, activists and journalists.

Also on death row is Jamshid Sharmahd, an Iranian-German engineer and long-time US resident sentenced to death for corruption on Earth, a broad and vague term which often carries the death penalty.

Updated: August 20, 2023, 12:46 PM