Ahmad Khatami attacks authorities for releasing protesters from detention
Hardline cleric Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, a Tehran Friday Prayer leader, has called for the death penalty for some protesters in Iran.
In his latest sermon, Khatami responded to the protests over political and economic issues that spread through Iran from December 28 over the next two weeks. He said that, according to the rules of Shia Islam, the just sentence for those who “pour into the street” and “oppose the ruler” is execution.
Khatami criticized authorities for freeing many of the more than 4,000 people who were detained during the demonstrations: releasing an unknown number of protesters detained nationwide, Khatami said, “The honorable authority says in an interview that all protesters have been freed. This is pampering them when they should be punished.”
Many in the regime have made a distinction between protesters and the claim of foreign-led agitators who led them into violence. However, Khatami said all should suffer consequences: “Those who had been hoodwinked and deceived should be awakened, punished, and commit themselves in writing to refrain from further devilry and being pawns at the hands of rioters.”
Judiciary spokesman Gholam-Hossein Mohseni Ejei has claimed that authorities pursued leniency over the mass arrests of demonstrators: “If there were any detentions during the riots, we had insisted to keep them out of prisons lest it become a criminal record for the deceived rioters.”
Khatami responded with a verbal attack on Mohseni Ejei and Tehran Prosecutor Abbas Jafari Doulatabadi:
The honorable official gives an interview and says all detainees were released. They should be warned in order to see that they have been wrong; since the insurgents, whoever they might be, either university or seminary students, should be punished.
Activists say at least five detainees died in custody during the protests. Families of some of the men say they were beaten, but Iranian officials insisted that all committed suicide or were “terrorists” who were not detained but killed in clashes with security forces.
Government Researchers: Almost Half Want End to Compulsory Hijab
Amid protests over the compulsory wearing of hijab, the Government’s Strategic Studies Center has summarized that the issue is one of the thorniest in Iran today.
The Center assesses that almost 50% of Iranian believe hijab is a private issue and the government should not interfere. About 25% of men want their wives to be able to appear in public without hijab.
The researchers also conclude that existing hijab laws are often ignored.
Since late December, a series of women have taken off their hijabs in public and, standing on electricity boxes, waved them on the end of sticks. Some men have joined the demonstrations in sympathy.
Currency Still Falling, Reports of Unrest
Iran’s rial continues to slide to a historic low, amid instability and concern about the economy.
The rial is now reported at about 47,500:1 vs. the US dollar on tracker websites, while local reports from Tehran say the rate is now about 48,000:1.
Long queues are reported on Tehran’s Ferdowsi Street, the center of currency exchanges, as Iranians try to obtain foreign currencies before the rial slides further. Scuffles are said ot have broken out.
The Iranian currency has dipped sharply in recent weeks, amid difficulties with recovery and protests across the country. It is now weaker than the low point of about 45,000:1 during the last years of the Ahmadinejad Administration before it left office in 2013.
Reports: Protests as Authorities Try to Detain 90-Year-Old Head of Gonabadi Dervishes
Reports are circulating that Iranian authorities are trying to arrest the 90-year-old spiritual leader of the Gonabadi Dervishes, Iran’s largest Sufi religious order.
Gonabadi members and other people have gathered on a Tehran avenue to try to block the detention of Nour-Ali Tabandeh for “action against national security”, according to the reports.
Iranian officials have periodically detained members of the Dervishes.