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Newstalk

14.34 3 Jan 2018


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Thousands of pro-government demonstrators have taken to the streets in cities across Iran after a week of anti-regime unrest over the country's economy.

Iranian media reported the rallies, which are thought to be an attempt to calm nerves following a week of anti-government protests that led to clashes which killed at least 21 people.

The protests, which started on Thursday and are the largest since Iran's disputed presidential election in 2009, were sparked by the nation's weak economy and rise in food prices.

Hundreds of activists were soon arrested as the unrest spread to cities and towns in almost every province.

According to reports, the head of Tehran's Revolutionary Court warned that detained protesters could face the death penalty.

Iran's semi-official Tasnim news agency quoted Mousa Ghazanfarabadi as saying potential charges could include "moharebeh" - or waging war against God.

Iran's Press TV said the pro-government rallies were to "protest the violence that has taken place over the last few nights in cities".

Pictures emerging from the country showed demonstrators waving Iranian flags and photos of President Hassan Rouhani.

Others waved banners emblazoned with the words "down with USA" after President Donald Trump hailed anti-government protesters and tweeted: "The people of Iran are finally acting against the brutal and corrupt Iranian regime."

The demonstrations come after the country's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei put the wave of unrest down to meddling by "enemies of Iran".

He said: "Look at the recent days' incidents.

"All those who are at odds with the Islamic Republic have utilised various means, including money, weapons, politics and (the) intelligence apparatus, to create problems for the Islamic system, the Islamic Republic and the Islamic Revolution."

He said he would elaborate on his comments in the coming days as he avoided identifying specific countries.

The unrest has seen Tehran shut down messaging app Telegram and photo-sharing platform Instagram to try to clamp down on the protests.

They join Facebook and Twitter in being banned in the country.

The US has condemned the move.

Sources in the office of Tayyip Erdogan have since said President Rouhani expects the protests in Iran to end in the next few days following a phone call with the Turkish leader.


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