Tehran, Iran – An official with Iran’s religion-affiliated organization, Alamyh, told public gatherings that Iranians have the right to express their opinions and criticize the judiciary after he was slapped in the face at a public event.
“Those who have accusations against them must not be on display, they must be behind bars or suffering in the town’s cell or in a university dormitory,” said the cleric, who is a governor for western Lorestan province, as he was answering a question from a citizen about the judiciary. “It is better we visit them in prison.”
Shortly after his remarks, a member of the crowd slapped the governor on the face. Some 50 people have since been arrested.
“It was an honest and transparent gathering to discuss the judiciary’s performance,” said Esmaeil Moteva, the event’s organizer. “The governor was an honest and proud official of the judiciary. I guess they are still angry that a governor and member of the clergy publicly criticize the judiciary, which is nothing to do with Islam.”
In Iran, the judiciary is tasked with enforcing laws and maintaining public security. The judiciary also functions under the religious hierarchy and has greater influence over decision-making and policymaking than the government.
The deputy governor of Lorestan, Qader Fayzollah-Hashemi, and more than 50 members of the crowd were arrested after the incident, the Mehr news agency reported.
“If women and children were present and they were not screaming then there is no reason to arrest them,” Esmaeil Moteva told the Associated Press.
Iran is experiencing nationwide demonstrations calling for reform of the deeply conservative governing system, and a higher minimum wage in a nation where one in five children live in poverty. The gatherings have remained peaceful so far, but the government is giving a serious warning that the protests are moving beyond their initial targets and have moved into other areas.
Following the scuffle with the governor, the crowd erupted into chants of “death to the police,” and “death to the security forces,” and called the president a “former chairman” and a “jerk.”
In one video posted on the internet, a man is seen jumping off a building while shouting: “Give us our freedom.”
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