Iran summons British envoy, alleging UK meddling in unrest

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  • Iran summons UK envoy for second time since protests erupt
  • School girls remove headscarves, chant against Khamenei
  • Witnesses say riot police deploy heavily at universities

DUBAI, Oct 5 (Reuters) – Iran summoned Britain’s ambassador for the second time since nationwide protests erupted last month, Iranian media reported on Wednesday, stepping up accusations of Western meddling in ongoing unrest sparked by a woman’s death in police custody.

Iran has accused foes including the United States of orchestrating the unrest, which marks the biggest challenge to the country’s clerical rulers in years with protesters calling for the downfall of the Islamic Republic.

People across Iran have joined protests since 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died in the custody of morality police who detained her in Tehran on Sept. 13 for “inappropriate attire”.

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Videos shared on social media on Wednesday showed high school girls in Tehran taking off their headscarves and chanting “death to (Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali) Khamenei”. Reuters could not independently verify the videos.

The authorities are waging a deadly crackdown to suppress the unrest, suggesting concern at the scope of the protests even if observers do not believe the government is close to being toppled.

Witnesses told Reuters riot police were deployed heavily in several cities on Wednesday, particularly around universities – a focal point of protests.

“There are lots of security forces around Tehran University. I am even scared to leave the campus. Lots of police vans are waiting outside to arrest students,” a Tehran student said.

The British envoy, previously summoned on Sept. 24, was summoned again on Tuesday in reaction to “interventionist comments” from the British foreign ministry, the semi-official news agency Tasnim reported.

A senior foreign ministry official said “unilateral statements” by Britain showed it had “a role in the belligerent scenarios of terrorists active against the Islamic Republic”, Tasnim said.

The agency did not elaborate on the accusations, but the official added that Tehran would consider possible options in response to any unusual actions from Britain.

‘BASIJ GET LOST’

Britain’s foreign ministry said on Monday it had summoned Iran’s charge d’affaires over the crackdown, during which rights groups say thousands have been arrested and hundreds injured, putting the death toll at over 150. The Basij, a volunteer militia, has played a big role alongside police.

Authorities have reported numerous deaths among the security forces.

Iran has accused Washington of seeking to use the unrest to destabilise the country, blaming armed dissident groups – among others – for violence. But many Iranians, including celebrities, have taken part or offered support for the protests.

In footage said to be filmed at a school in Shiraz on Tuesday, about 50 female pupils surrounded a member of the Basij who had been invited to give a speech, shouting “Basij get lost” and “death to Khamenei”.

Appearing to justify curbs on social media used to share videos, Iran’s chief prosecutor said WhatsApp and Instagram were being used for classes in how to “commit crimes, indecency and promiscuity”.

The prosecutor also criticised the Aminis’ family lawyer for making statements “without evidence”, after he was quoted as saying that “respectable doctors” believe she was hit in custody.

President Ebrahim Raisi has ordered an investigation into her death. Amini died after falling into a coma. The police have said she suffered a heart attack. Her father has held the police responsible and denied she had heart problems.

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Writing by Tom Perry; editing by John Stonestreet

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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