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Iran frees 157, thousands remain jailed on protest anniversary

Iran’s judiciary has pardoned dozens of prisoners arrested during last year’s deadly anti-government protests, but thousands more are still behind bars, reportedly facing torture and other forms of mistreatment.
Iranian protesters hold flowers as riot police fire tear gas during a demonstration in front of Tehran's Amir Kabir University on January 11, 2020. - Demonstrations broke out for a second night in a row after Iran admitted to having shot down a Ukrainian passenger jet by mistake on January 8, killing all 176 people on board. (Photo by STR / AFP) (Photo by STR/AFP via Getty Images)

One year after Iran was rattled with deadly unrest over a contentious government fuel subsidy plan, the country’s judiciary said 157 protesters have been released. According to judiciary spokesperson Gholam-Hossein Esmaeili, the pardon was granted by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to the “security convicts,” a term Iranian officials apply to most political dissidents and prisoners of conscience.

Every year on different religious occasions, Khamenei issues similar pardons for thousands languishing in Iranian jails. Yet the order has always left out political prisoners. A newspaper run by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) praised the pardon as a sign of “Islamic compassion” on the anniversary of the “riots.”

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