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Iran pardons or commutes ‘large’ number of prisoners, state media says


Iran will pardon or commute the sentences of a large number of prisoners as part of an annual amnesty, state media reported on Sunday, although it is unclear how this will apply to those arrested during the recent wave of protests.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has approved a proposal to “pardon or commute” the sentences of thousands of prisoners, according to state media, but with notable exceptions that are likely to exclude many jailed protesters.

According to the semi-official Tasnim, the amnesty does not apply to those convicted or accused of “espionage on behalf of foreigners, direct links with foreign intelligence services, murder or intentional injury, as well as vandalism or arson against government, military and public officials”. sites” – all of the charges regularly brought against protesters and foreign nationals imprisoned in Iran.

Referring to the protesters, Chief Justice Gholam​-Hossein Mohseni​-Ejei said that “a number of convicts imprisoned following the recent riots in Iran had been tricked into wrongdoing under the influence of the campaign enemy propaganda” and “asked for forgiveness”, Tasnim reported.

At least one Iranian human rights organization called the move “propaganda”.

“The #HypocriticalPardoning of protesters by Khamenei is an act of propaganda. They used their own right to protest and their arrests and convictions are not justified. Not only should all protesters be released, but in the path of justice, the trial of perpetrators and agents of repression is also a universal right,” Iran Human Rights said on Twitter.

A New York-based NGO, the Center for Human Rights (CHRI) in Iran, described Khamenei’s decision as a “publicity stunt” with “no basis in reality”.

CHRI Deputy Director Jasmin Ramsey told CNN in a statement on Sunday that the Iranian regime has “a documented history of lofty statements on the release of political prisoners and disrespect.”

“What we expect is that some will be released while many others, especially prominent political prisoners who have been unjustly imprisoned for years, will remain imprisoned,” Ramsey said.

“This is a press stunt that has no basis in the reality of a regime that has lost its legitimacy with its people. Political repression, imprisonments after fictitious “trials” conducted by courts puppets, the criminalization of dissent remain,” she continued.

The semi-official Mehr news agency claimed that “tens of thousands” of prisoners could be pardoned or have their sentences commuted, but gave no details.

Khamenei made the announcement ahead of the 44th anniversary of the “victory of the Islamic revolution” marked on February 11. It is customary for Khamenei to grant amnesty to certain prisoners to make this occasion.

Anti-government protests, sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini, a young Kurdish-Iranian woman in September 2022, have led to the arrest of tens of thousands of people across the country.

Last month, Iran executed two protesters accused of killing security personnel, sparking international outcry. Critics said the executions were the result of hasty sham trials. At least 43 people are currently at risk of execution in Iran, according to a CNN tally, but activist group 1500Tasvir says the number could be as high as 100.

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