State media reported on Sunday that Iran’s supreme leader has agreed to pardon “tens of thousands” of prisoners, including some who have been jailed for participating in a wave of anti-regime protests. was taken into custody.
But Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the country’s final decision-maker, agreed that those arrested for participating in the unrest would only be pardoned or have their sentences reduced “if they do not spy for the benefit of foreigners”. [and] There was no direct contact with agents of foreign intelligence services, state news agency IRNA said.
It added that detainees involved in protests could also be pardoned if they did not kill or intentionally injure, and did not “destroy government, military and public facilities”.
Khamenei made the announcement as the republic marked the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution that toppled the last Shah.
The Islamic regime has been rocked by one of the most sustained periods of civil unrest since the death in September of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in the custody of the Moral Police.
Officials insisted she died of a heart attack, but many Iranians believed Amini died from beatings after being arrested for not wearing her mandatory hijab properly.
This set off a wave of anger that swept across the country in one of the most severe and sustained outbursts of unrest in years.
The government cracked down violently against protesters calling for regime change and the introduction of a secular democracy.
According to Amnesty International, more than 300 people, including 44 children, have been killed and thousands detained in the unrest so far.
Iran has confirmed nearly 200 deaths, including among security forces, and has blamed foreign powers for fueling the unrest.
The regime has shown few signs that it is willing to make any significant compromises, and has killed four protesters, further fueling despair in the republic.
Iranians are also grappling with mounting social and economic grievances, with inflation hitting more than 40 percent as the country’s economy remains besieged by hundreds of US sanctions.
Authorities’ violent crackdown on protesters, as well as Iran’s decision to sell armed drones to Moscow, which Russian forces have used in the war in Ukraine, have plunged Iran’s already strained relations with the West to new lows.
Dozens of European citizens – mainly French and German – have also been arrested in Iran, according to Western diplomats, some of whom were detained after protests. The republic is believed to have the highest number of Westerners ever detained.
In a sign of the West’s toughening stance towards the republic, the European Union is exploring legal options to designate Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organisation.
The move was backed by France and Germany which, along with the UK, are signatories to the 2015 nuclear deal Tehran signed with world powers.
The UK is already reviewing whether to apply the designation to the Revolutionary Guards, the most powerful wing of Iran’s state security apparatus.
Analysts have warned that if the Revolutionary Guards are designated it risks ending any hopes of reviving nuclear talks between Iran and the West.
The EU had been brokering indirect talks between the Biden administration and Tehran in hopes of saving the nuclear deal, which former US President Donald Trump unilaterally abandoned in 2018. But there have been no talks since September, when Iran was blamed for rejecting a draft deal. To save the deal that the other signatories had agreed to.