The head of the Iranian judiciary, Gholamhossein Mohseni-Ejei, announced the pardon of 22,000 people convicted or accused in connection with the protests triggered by the death in police custody of young Mahsa Amini, on September 16, according to the official agency reported this Monday. Iranian news agency IRNA. Mohseni-Ejei specified that some of these people have been arrested, but that most of them have not been arrested as they have not yet been convicted or the judicial process of their cases has not yet been completed.

The highest Iranian judicial authority also assured that another 60,000 people unrelated to the protests benefited from the measure, always according to the same source. Of these, around 25,000 have been released, while around 34,000 have had their sentences reduced, according to information gathered by IRNA. In total, the sentences of 82,000 people were subject, according to these data, to a full or partial pardon over a period of time that Mohseni-Ejei did not specify.

In the months after Amini’s death, Iranian human rights organizations in exile such as Iran Human Rights reported that some 20,000 people were detained in protests sparked by the suspicious death of the 22-year-old Kurdish girl. she had been arrested by the morals police, accused of not wearing the mandatory headscarf properly. The outpouring of popular anger over the woman’s death almost immediately turned into an open challenge to the Islamic regime that has governed Iran’s destiny since 1979.

Authorities responded to protesters chanting “Women, life and freedom” with a crackdown that killed at least 500 people, according to Iranian human rights data. Between 70 and 80 security force agents were killed by demonstrators, according to official figures.

Neither the government nor the Iranian court system has provided global figures for those arrested in recent months’ demonstrations. In the statements of the head of the judiciary collected this Monday by IRNA, it is also not clear how many of those 22,000 now supposedly pardoned reached prison. The measure had been approved on February 5 by the Iranian Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, at the proposal of Gholamhossein Mohseni-Ejei himself. Already then it was announced that “tens of thousands” of people would be pardoned.

The Iranian judiciary then specified that only those who showed “repentance” and were not involved in bloody crimes, thefts or other violent acts such as the destruction of public property could benefit from the pardon. Between December and January, Iran executed four men, three of them in their 20s, by hanging, and in at least one case, that of Majid Reza Rahnavard, in public.

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These four men were found guilty of injuring or killing security force agents in trials that human rights organizations called “farce” and in which they could not be represented by lawyers of their choice. According to the office of UN human rights official Volker Turk, another 17 people have been sentenced to death in Iran up to January alone on charges related to anti-regime demonstrations.

overcrowded prisons

Iran had experienced periodic protests in previous years. In some cases – as happened in 2009 due to alleged electoral fraud in the elections that led to the re-election of Mahmud Ahmadinejad as president – ​​millions of Iranians took to the streets to protest. Without being so massive, the demonstrations whose fuse was lit by the death of Mahsa Amini were, however, persistent, with an unprecedented geographical extension and, above all, an opposition to the regime and its leaders never seen before, at least in a General State and explicit. In the months of protests that followed the death of the young Kurd, demonstrators did not call for more reform within the Islamic Republic, but for its overthrow.

When the demonstrations had already reduced their intensity and frequency in general – due to repression and the hanging of demonstrators, according to human rights organizations – Iranian authorities began to announce conciliatory gestures coinciding with the commemoration of the 44th anniversary of the advent of the Islamic Republic of Iran , on February 11. These measures were interpreted as a way of trying to reduce the discontent of the population, which continues to be evident in the acts of civil disobedience that some Iranians maintain, especially women who waive the mandatory veil, running the risk of arrest. Others are the nightly screams against the regime in neighborhoods of Tehran, such as Ekbatan, or the street dances of young people publicized on social networks, conduct that is punishable in Iran.

overcrowded prisons

The total or partial pardon for the benefit of 82,000 people represents a relief for the Iranian prison system which, long before the protests and the thousands of arrests related to them, already deplored a prison density of 161% in its prisons. according to 2014 data from the Prison Insider platform. Iran held 225,624 people behind bars that year, an incarceration rate of 287 prisoners per 100,000 population, which far exceeds the world average of 140 prisoners per 100,000 population, according to the Institute for Criminal Policy Research (ICPR). in English). Even so, Iran is not, according to that source, among the ten countries in the world with the largest prison population.

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