U.S. Urges Release of ‘Peaceful’ Demonstrators in Iran

The U.S. has demanded that the “brutal” leadership of Iran release all those arrested during recent anti-government protests. A White House statement said the Trump administration was “deeply concerned” that Iran had imprisoned thousands for engaging in “peaceful protests”. The statement went on to demand the immediate release of all political prisoners in Iran.

“Further reports that the regime has tortured or killed some of these demonstrators while in detention are even more disturbing. We will not remain silent as the Iranian dictatorship represses the basic rights of its citizens and will hold Iran’s leaders accountable for any violations. The protesters in Iran are expressing legitimate grievances, including demanding an end to their government’s oppression, corruption, and a waste of national resources on military adventurism. Iran’s regime claims to support democracy, but when its own people express their aspirations for better lives and an end to injustice, it once again shows its true brutal nature. ‎The United States calls for the immediate release of all political prisoners in Iran, including the victims of the most recent crackdown,” says the statement issued in the name of press secretary Sarah Sanders.

It is not known how many people have been arrested. The official figure is about 1,000, but other sources in Iran suggest it could be much higher. Iranian officials say the majority of those arrested have now been released, with only “instigators” facing trial.

The unrest – the largest of its kind since a disputed presidential election in 2009 – initially began over price rises and corruption. But it quickly spiraled into a wider display of animosity towards the government and ruling clerics. At least 21 people were killed in violence between protesters and the authorities.

The latest U.S. support for the protesters comes as President Donald Trump is deciding whether to continue to extend Iran’s relief from sanctions before a deadline on Friday. The relief is in return for Iranian compliance with a 2015 deal on curbing its nuclear activity.

Hundreds of demonstrators extended their protests this week outside Iran’s notorious Evin Prison, demanding information about loved ones detained – without being charged – since ongoing anti-government protests erupted almost two weeks ago. Uncertainty surrounds the status of more than 3,000 who have been detained since protests broke out on Dec. 28 and quickly spread to more than 130 locations across the country.

“People inside are being tortured, maybe tortured to death,” Amir, a 31-year-old activist, and business owner, told Fox News in a telephone interview from outside the prison on Tuesday night.

Amir, who declined to give his last name for fear of retribution, spoke from amid a crowd of protestors, who could be heard chanting “free the prisoners” and “we are united” in the background. Amir said a close friend, a 26-year-old student, was one of the “lucky” ones to have been released this week after more than a week in detention – but is now hiding for the sake of his family’s safety.

“He was arrested by plainclothes police at the beginning of the protests in Tehran. Then he was beaten badly. He said 400 to 500 people were forced into a room that should only hold 120 persons. They suffered all the torture – sleep deprivation, lack of food, all the things,” Amir recalled.

He also said his detained friend claimed Iranian prison officials are trying to “stage manage” the situation inside the prison, coercing detainees into making filmed statements that they are being treated well.

“People are very concerned about the health of the arrested people. Mothers are there and they don’t know anything about their child’s situation, or even if they are alive,” said Nik, a People’s Mujahedin of Iran (MEK) protester outside Evin.

Human rights groups continue to express their grave concern over the treatment of detainees, arbitrary arrests and acts of intimidation by law enforcement.

“Iranian authorities should ensure that all deaths in detention and allegations of ill-treatment are swiftly and independently investigated,” Human Rights Watch said Tuesday. Meanwhile, Amnesty International continues to demand Iranian officials “take all necessary steps to protect detainees from torture and prevent any further deaths.”

A representative for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) told Fox News that it does not currently visit places of detention in Iran.