Iran’s supreme leader on Sunday reportedly ordered an amnesty or reduction in prison sentences for “tens of thousands” of people detained amid nationwide anti-government protests shaking the country, acknowledging for the first time the scale of the crackdown.
The decree by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, part of a yearly pardoning the supreme leader does before the anniversary of Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, comes as authorities have yet to say how many people they detained in the demonstrations.
State media also published a list of caveats over the order that would disqualify those with ties abroad or facing spying charges — allegations which have been met with wide international criticism.
Khamenei “agreed to offer amnesty and reduce the sentences of tens of thousands accused and convicted in the recent incidents,” the state-run IRNA news agency said in a Farsi report.
A later IRNA report carried by its English-language service said the pardons and commuted sentences were for “tens of thousands of convicts, including the arrestees of the recent riots in Iran.”
Authorities did not immediately acknowledge the discrepancy in the reports.
The reports about the decree offered no explanation for the decision by Khamenei, who has the final say on all matters of state in Iran. However, prisons and detention facilities in the country are already overcrowded after years of protests over economic issues and other matters.
Activists immediately dismissed Khamenei’s decree.
“Khamenei’s hypocritical pardon doesn’t change anything,” wrote Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam from the Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights. “Not only all protesters must be released unconditionally, but also it is a public right that those who ordered the bloody repression and their agents are held accountable.”
More than 19,600 people have been arrested during the protests, according to Human Rights Activists in Iran, a group that’s been tracking the crackdown. At least 527 people have been killed as authorities violently suppressed demonstrations, the group said.