Iranian cleric wants ‘firm’ action against protesters

2018-01-07 06:12
Iranian hard-liners rally in Tehran to support the country's supreme leader and clerically overseen government, as spontaneous protests sparked by anger over the country's ailing economy take place in major cities in Iran. Picture: Ebrahim Noroozi, AP

Iranian hard-liners rally in Tehran to support the country's supreme leader and clerically overseen government, as spontaneous protests sparked by anger over the country's ailing economy take place in major cities in Iran. Picture: Ebrahim Noroozi, AP

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Tens of thousands of government supporters rallied across Iran on Friday, swearing allegiance to the clerical establishment and accusing archenemy the US of instigating the largest anti-government protests in nearly a decade, state TV reported.

Tehran’s Friday prayer leader called on authorities to deal “firmly” with those responsible for igniting over a week of illegal rallies, in which 22 people were killed and more than 1 000 were arrested, according to Iranian officials.

“But those ordinary Iranians who were deceived by these American-backed rioters should be dealt with based on Islamic clemency,” cleric Ahmad Khatami told worshippers at Tehran University, TV reported.

Khatami called on the government to “pay more attention to people’s economic problems”.

The anti-government rallies erupted in Iran’s holy Shi’ite city of Mashhad on December 28, after the government announced plans to increase fuel prices and dismantle monthly cash hand-outs to lower-income Iranians.

The protests spread to more than 80 cities and rural towns, staged by thousands of young and working class Iranians angry about official corruption, unemployment and a deepening gap between rich and poor.

Authorities have produced no evidence to support assertions of US involvement in the protests, which lacked a unifying leader.

Iranian officials said the protests were the result of foreign instigation and mocked US President Donald Trump’s support of protesters against what he called a “brutal and corrupt” establishment.

To allay tension, the government suspended plans to cut cash hand-outs and increase fuel prices.

“There are workers who say they have not received their salaries for months. These problems should be resolved,” Khatami said, according to state TV.

Fearing that further unrest could undermine the Islamic republic altogether, Iran’s faction-ridden political elite has displayed a united front. – Reuters

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