Iran's Rouhani calls for release of "unarmed, innocent" protesters

Iran's Rouhani calls for release of

PanARMENIAN.Net - Iran's President Hassan Rouhani has called for the release of any unarmed and innocent people arrested during the protests against gasoline price hikes after two weeks of violent clashes, Al Jazeera reports.

The unrest, which began on November 15 after the government abruptly raised fuel prices by as much as 300 percent, spread to more than 100 Iranian cities and towns and turned political as young and working-class protesters demanded the clerical leaders step down.

"Religious and Islamic clemency should be shown and those innocent people who protested against petrol price hikes and were not armed ... should be released," Rouhani said in a televised speech on Wednesday.

Iran's clerical rulers have blamed "thugs" linked to its opponents in exile and the country's main foreign foes - the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia - for the deadly protests that paralysed the oil-rich nation.

Tehran has given no official death toll, but Amnesty International on Monday said it documented the deaths of at least 208 protesters, making the disturbances the bloodiest since the 1979 uprising that swept the Shia leaders to power.

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