LATEST: Video — Senior Official Larijani Defends Executions, Detention of Washington Post Reporter Rezaian

Iran’s current and former officials tried a new line on Thursday to deflect criticism of its response to a series of acid attacks on women — they blamed foreign influences such as Britain’s intelligence service MI6.

The regime has been unsettle by public protests over the attacks, with thousands turning out last week in Isfahan and Tehran to demand the resignations of officials and the withdrawal of a Parliamentary law protecting those who challenge “un-Islamic” fashion and behavior.

Iranian officials have been trying to put away any connection between the attacks and the law, which followed a declaration by the paramilitary group Ansar Hezbollah that it would serve as “moral police” on the Islamic Republic’s streets. So they have denied that the attacks had anything to do with the failure of women to wear proper hijab — instead, the assaults have been instigated by foreign media and elements, according to Isfahan police, MPs, and the head of Iran’s judiciary, Sadegh Larijani.

On Thursday, Grand Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi insisted the acid attacks were another “foreign conspiracy using the media, television, and the Internet”.

Heydar Moslehi, the Intelligence Minister in the Ahmadinejad Government, gave specifics — he said that Britain’s foreign intelligence agency MI6 was responsible for the Isfahan attacks.

Moslehi linked the incidents to the mass protests after the disputed 2009 Presidential election: “people were involved in the conspiracy or were silent and knew very well of their wrongdoing”.

Meanwhile, the regime continues its efforts to suppress Iranian media coverage of the attacks. Earlier this week, it put out a vivid warning by arresting four staff, including the Isfahan editor, of the Iranian Students News Agency.

The four were released within 24 hours, but ISNA photographer Arya Jafari remains in prison over his pictures of the public protests.

Almost 130 journalists have posted an open letter condemning the detentions:

How is the arrest of reporters, who are merely performing their duty of providing people with news and photos, any different to preventing the media from informing the public? Doesn’t this strip the public’s right to know?

Video: Senior Official Larijani Defends Executions, Detention of Washington Post Reporter Rezaian

Interviewed by CNN, senior judiciary official Mohammad Javad Larijani has condemned the latest critical report from the UN Special Rapporteur as “inauthentic”.

Larijani said most of Iran’s high level of executions were for drug crimes. On the specific case of Reyhaneh Jabbari — executed last week after seven years on Death Row for killing the man who allegedly attempt to rape her — he blamed foreign media, saying its coverage had hardened the dead man’s family against clemency.

On the detention since July of The Washington Post’s Tehran correspondent Jason Rezaian, Larijani maintained:

The charges…by the security officials [are] involving activities beyond the sphere of journalism.

Accusations – when it is considered as substantial and capable of being prosecuted by law, it becomes charges. So it was not pure accusations.

On Thursday, Rezaian’s mother and brother marked his 100th day in detention with a plea for his release:

Unlike previous high profile cases, the Iranian government has never even pretended that they had proof to suspect Jason of wrongdoing to justify the detention. So they have spent 100 days interrogating him in an attempt to find something, anything, that they could use to justify his unwarranted detention.