A hardline member of Iran's parliament has tried to deny a report that he had bragged about killing protesters in 2019 and saying no one would arrest him.
Lawmaker Hassan Norouzi told the parliamentary news service Monday he had not made remarks attributed to him Sunday by Didban-e Iran website over the 2019 protests when hunreds were killed by security forces.
Norouzi said a “fake reporter” had called him and asked about the ‘Iran Atrocities Tribunal’ held in London last week. But Didban-e Iran defended its report, insisting it had taped the conversation and might sue the deputy.
Norouzi allegedly told the website: "I was one of those who shot people. [Yes,] we killed people… They had set fire to banks and we killed them. Who is going to put us on trial for it?" He then allegedly said was "joking" and hung up.
The comments, as reported, drew swift condemnation. The conservative newspaper Jomhouri Eslami wrote that “such a joke” was “deplorable by anyone, but even more by you who are a cleric wearing the cloak of the Prophet of Mercy [Muhammad].” The newspaper argued that Islamic values required those setting fire to banks to face justice and a proportionate punishment rather than being killed before a crime was proved.
Human rights lawyer Ali Mojtahedzadeh, in a commentary published by Didban-e Iran Monday, noted that Norouzi was a member of the parliament's Legal and Judiciary Committee, making his statements "even more deplorable.”
"What kind of a joke can this be when according to official figures nearly 300 people died in this incident, many more were wounded or detained, and so many lives were ruined?" Mojtahedzadeh asked. He criticized parliament and judiciary for not carrying out "a minimum level of investigation" after two years. "Which legal system in the world doesn't charge even one person for the murder of at least 300 citizens in the streets in broad daylight?” he asked.
Iran has not officially announced figures for deaths or arrests, nor put anyone on trial for killing protesters, but has prosecuted and passed heavy sentences including the death penalty on protesters on charges including “assembly and collusion against the regime.” Officials have put the number at over 200. Independent reports have put the number of protesters killed between 300-1,500.
Mojtahedzadeh claimed Iran had laws forbidding security forces shooting suspects above the waist in any situations and that shooting anyone, even if they were setting fire to banks, needed strong justification: "The real tragedy is that not only justice, based on Sharia and the law, has not been served in the case of these events but also some truths are being distorted and even mocked."
A video posted on social media by ‘mothers of victims’ challenged Norouzi to “stop hiding in your lair with 30 bodyguards” and to “come out and face us.”
The ‘Iran Atrocities Tribunal’ claimed in a Tweet Saturday that Iran’s deputy foreign minister Ali Bagheri-Kani had threatened to “stop part” of Iran’s discussions with world powers if London did not stop the tribunal meeting. The tweet claimed the tribunal, which purports to be quasi-judicial investigation into the November 2019 protests, learnt this from “European sources.”
Didban-e Iran's report Saturday also claimed its “informed sources” had said the foreign ministry had protested to the British government for allowing the tribunal be held in the UK.