At least 7,000 arrested during Iran protests

UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — At least 7,000 people have been arrested in Iran since the outbreak of popular protests in the middle of last month, the United Nations said Friday, calling for the immediate release of detainees arbitrarily.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in a statement also said it had obtained a “verified video” showing security forces shooting at the demonstrators with the intention of killing.

UNHCR said it had “information indicating that at least 208 people were killed” during the unrest, supporting the death toll already provided by Amnesty International.

“There are also reports that the UN Human Rights Commission has not been able to verify so far indicating that more than twice that number has been killed,” the statement said.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said the video obtained by her office showed “the use of extreme violence against protesters.”

“We also received footage that appeared to show security forces firing at unarmed protesters from behind as they were fleeing and firing directly on the face and vital organs … in other words they were shooting to kill them,” Bachelet said.

The commissioner cited video footage showing “armed members of the security forces firing from the roof of the Ministry of Justice building” in Guanrod city of Kermanshah province in western Tehran, as well as helicopter gunships in Sadra city in Fars province.

Popular protests across the country erupted on November 15, after authorities suddenly raised the price of gasoline by up to 200 percent.

Officials in Iran have not announced the death toll of the protests, which have seen highways closed, banks and police stations set on fire and shops looted.

“Many of the arrested demonstrators were unable to contact a lawyer,” Bachelet said, while warning of “reports of severe overcrowding and harsh conditions in detention centers, which in some cities include military barracks, sports facilities and schools.”

“I urge the authorities to immediately release all the protesters who have been arbitrarily deprived of their liberty,” she said.

Iran has blamed the violence on thugs backed by its arch-foes the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia.

She also accused the exiled monarchists and the People’s Mujahideen of Iran, a former rebel group in exile that Tehran considers a “terrorist” group, of being behind the violence.

Tehran has dismissed rights reports as “pure lies”.

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