EU demands Iran end its violent crackdown on protesters

BRUSSELS – The European Union’s top foreign envoy called on Iran to immediately halt its violent crackdown on protests that have gripped the country, criticising the Islamic Republic for a “widespread and disproportionate use of force”.

In a statement on Sunday, Mr Josep Borrell, the EU’s high representative for foreign and security affairs, said that Iran must fully investigate what happened to Ms Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman whose death in the custody of so-called morality police sparked the unrest.

Protests now in their 10th day have spread to scores of towns and cities.

According to official figures released by state media, 41 people have been killed and hundreds arrested.

Ms Amini was detained for allegedly breaking the country’s dress code for women.

Her family accuse police of beating her and covering up the injuries caused, rejecting police claims that she died of heart failure after falling into a coma.

In the capital Teheran, two residents who didn’t want to be named for safety reasons, said there was a substantial police and security presence in many of the city’s main junctions and squares.

People mostly turned out in their cars in order to gridlock traffic, sound their horns in support of Ms Amini’s family and spread leaflets, they said, mostly in the central district of Sattar Khan.

It’s the most widespread unrest in Iran since November 2019, when authorities, according to rights groups, killed hundreds of people in protests over fuel prices.

On Monday, Iranian state TV was dominated by footage of government-organised rallies in support of the Islamic Republic in various towns as part of ongoing efforts to counter the protesters.

The EU has a critical role mediating negotiations between Iran and the US toward restoring the 2015 nuclear deal, with talks stalled for several weeks.

Mr Borrell said that the bloc will “consider all options at its disposal” in its response to Iran’s efforts to suppress protests and heavily restrict people’s access to the internet.

The EU has often sanctioned Iran over human rights, but many of the penalties it had imposed over the past 10 to 15 years were lifted under the terms of the nuclear accord.

Video spread on social media overnight showed protests continuing in several towns across the country.

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