Iran protests met with tear gas

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Iranian anti-government protests after the accidental downing of an airliner were met with tear gas and left at least one person wounded, videos on social media appeared to show Monday.

Demonstrations broke out for a second night in a row after Iran admitted to having shot down a Ukrainian passenger jet by mistake on January 8, killing all 176 people on board.

The tragedy came amid a spike in tensions between Tehran and Washington following the US killing of a top Iranian commander and after Iran retaliated by firing missiles at Iraqi bases where US troops are stationed.

Videos circulating on social media appeared to show large crowds chanting slogans against the country’s authorities in Tehran’s iconic Azadi Square south of the centre.

Multiple videos, including several shared by the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran, appeared to show people screaming and scattering as tear gas was fired into crowds in the major Tehran artery of Azadi Street.

AFP could not independently verify the exact times or locations of the videos, which are often shared via Telegram channels or other messaging services, but could ascertain that they had not appeared online before Sunday.

Another clip shows a woman on the ground, large splatters of blood on the pavement near her, as others try to pick her up, some saying “she’s been shot” and yelling to “bandage it!”

In a video purporting to be from the city of Amol in the Mazandaran region on the Caspian Sea, a crowd marches, shouting, “We don’t want the Islamic republic”.

State TV on Saturday reported that “anti-regime” protests were held in the capital in a rare acknowledgement of such demonstrations.

Iran was previously rocked by mass protests in November, triggered by a hike in fuel prices, that were met with a crackdown that rights group Amnesty International said left at least 300 dead and many more wounded or arrested.

‘Grief and anger’
US President Donald Trump had warned Iran in a tweet Sunday against killing protesters, saying that the world and, “more importantly, the USA is watching”.

Germany’s foreign ministry said Monday that the Iranian people must be allowed to “protest peacefully and freely” and express their “grief and also their anger” after the plane disaster.

Iran had denied for days Western accusations that the Ukrainian International Airlines Boeing 737 had been shot down by a missile, with the military admitting the catastrophic error on Saturday.

Later that evening, a memorial at Tehran’s Amir Kabir University in honour of those killed turned into a demonstration that, AFP correspondents said, was attended by hundreds of students.

Protesters shouted “death to liars” and demanded the resignation and prosecution of those responsible for downing the plane and allegedly covering up the accidental action.

On the day after the rally, there was a heavy police presence, notably around the capital’s Azadi Square.

Riot police armed with water cannon and batons were seen at Amir Kabir, Sharif and Tehran universities as well as Enqelab Square.

Around 50 Basij militiamen brandishing paintball guns, potentially to mark protesters to authorities, were also seen near Amir Kabir.

On Monday, Iran denied that there had been any cover-up of the shooting down of the plane.

Police had also been ordered to show “restraint” in response to demonstrations, according to Tehran’s police chief General Hossein Rahimi.

“The police did not shoot at the gatherings at all because a restraint order (had been issued) for police in the capital,” he said in a statement published by state TV.


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