Iran to pardon tens of thousands of prisoners jailed during protests, state media reports | World News

Tens of thousands of prisoners detained in Iran amid vast anti-government protests will be pardoned, state media reports.

The country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is said to have ordered amnesties or reductions in jail terms, although there are several exceptions.

Nobody accused of “corruption on earth” – a charge which brings the death penalty – would be released, said state news agency IRNA, nor anyone “affiliated with groups hostile to the Islamic Republic”.

People facing internationally disputed charges of “spying for foreign agencies” will also be kept behind bars.

The decision comes as part of an annual pardoning before Iran marks the anniversary of its 1979 Islamic Revolution, which ended its historical monarchy and ushered in the current regime.

Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei, head of Iran’s judiciary, said many of those being released were “young people” who suffered from “indoctrination” by hostile forces and “now regret their actions”.

There may also be some practical motive behind the move, as Iran’s detention centres face immense overcrowding, dating back well beyond the recent nationwide unrest sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini in September.

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Why are Iranians protesting?

Thousands arrested and hundreds feared dead in protests

Ms Amini, 22, was arrested for allegedly breaking the country’s strict Islamic dress code, and died in custody.

The UN says thousands of people have been arrested during the subsequent demonstrations.

According to the group Human Rights Activists in Iran, at least 527 protesters have been killed by authorities.

Iran has not said how many have died for months, but it has executed at least four people over the unrest, which the regime insists has little to do with Ms Amini’s death.

State TV has instead referred to the protests as a “foreign-backed riot”.

Amnesty International has condemned the hangings as the result of “sham trials designed to intimidate those participating in the popular uprising that has rocked Iran”.

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Opposition leader demands referendum

Iranians opposing the government have also expressed anger over Tehran’s backing of Russia in its war in Ukraine, including providing deadly drones, and the collapse of the country’s rial currency against the US dollar.

Meanwhile, the city of Isfahan was left reeling from a surprise aerial attack on a military factory. The strike has been blamed on Israel.

A long-detained opposition leader to the regime, Mir Hossein Mousavi, has called for a nationwide referendum on whether a new constitution should be written.

While he supported Iran’s theocracy for decades, the 80-year-old and his wife have been under house arrest since protests erupted over his disputed election loss in 2019.

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