Iran disputes ‘exaggerated’ protest death tolls

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Iranian women holding national flags and pictures of the Islamic republic’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, take part a pro-government demonstration in the capital Tehran’s central Enghelab Square on November 25, 2019, to condemn days of “rioting” that Iran blames on its foreign foes. – In a shock announcement 10 days ago, Iran had raised the price of petrol by up to 200 percent, triggering nationwide protests in a country whose economy has been battered by US sanctions. (Photo by ATTA KENARE / AFP)

Iran on Saturday disputed death tolls issued abroad for the bloodshed that erupted during protests in the country over fuel prices after a rights group said over 160 demonstrators were killed.

The demonstrations flared in mid-November after the price of petrol in the Islamic republic went up overnight by as much as 200 percent.

Officials in Iran have yet to say how many people died in the ensuing violence that saw banks, petrol pumps and police stations set on fire.

London-based human rights group Amnesty International said in a tweet on Friday that the crackdown claimed the lives of 161 demonstrators.

But Iran’s deputy interior minister, Jamal Orf, disputed such figures.

“Statistics by international organisations on those killed in the recent incidents are not credible,” he was quoted as saying by state news agency IRNA.

Orf accused the sources that reported the figures of “exaggerating” them.

The prosecution service, he added, was set to announce the figures based on those it receives from the coroner’s office.

Prior to its latest tweet, Amnesty International said on Monday that 143 demonstrators had been killed in the crackdown, citing what it called “credible reports”.

The governments of the United States, France and Germany have condemned Iran over the bloodshed.

The unrest broke out on November 15, hours after it was announced that the price of gas would rise to 15,000 rials per litre (12 US cents) from 10,000 for the first 60 litres, and to 30,000 rials for any extra fuel bought after that each month.

Iran’s economy has been battered since last year when President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the United States from a 2015 nuclear agreement and reimposed crippling sanctions on the Islamic republic.

The government in Tehran said proceeds from the fuel price hike would go to the neediest people in the country.

According to IRNA, the payments have since been made in three installations between November 18 and 23.

The Guardian

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