US to impose costs on Iran for crackdown on protests, Biden says

A protestor holds a photo of Ms Mahsa Amini in Oct 2 in support of Iranian women, after she died after being arrested. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON - The United States this week will impose further costs on Iranian officials responsible for violence against demonstrators who protested against Iran's government after the death of Ms Mahsa Amini, President Joe Biden said Monday.

Ms Amini, a 22-year-old from Iranian Kurdistan, was arrested on Sept 13 in Teheran for "unsuitable attire" by the morality police and died in custody.

Within hours of her funeral in the Kurdish town of Saqez on Sept 17, thousands of Iranians poured into the streets across the country.

Security forces, including police and the volunteer Basij militia, have cracked down on the protests. Rights groups put the death toll at over 130.

In a statement, Mr Biden said he was "gravely concerned about reports of the intensifying violent crackdown on peaceful protesters in Iran" and vowed a swift response.

"This week, the United States will be imposing further costs on perpetrators of violence against peaceful protesters. We will continue holding Iranian officials accountable and supporting the rights of Iranians to protest freely," he said.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters that university students in Iran are "rightly enraged" by Ms Amini's death, and that the weekend crackdowns are the type of events that prompt young people in Iran to leave the country "and seek dignity and opportunity elsewhere".

She gave no indication that the crackdown would have an impact on US diplomacy to resurrect the Iran nuclear deal, which then President Donald Trump abandoned in 2018.

Iran's supreme leader on Monday gave his full backing to security forces confronting protests ignited by Ms Amini's death, comments that could herald a harsher crackdown to quell unrest more than two weeks since she died.

In his first remarks addressing Ms Amini's death, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said her death "deeply broke my heart" and called it a "bitter incident" provoked by Iran's enemies.

"The duty of our security forces, including police, is to ensure the safety of the Iranian nation.. The ones who attack the police are leaving Iranian citizens defenceless against thugs, robbers and extortionists," Mr Khamenei said. REUTERS

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