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Iran’s attorney general warns that morality police could be ‘abolished’

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Iran’s attorney general said on Saturday that the country’s controversial morality police would be “abolished”, local media reported, amid ongoing nationwide protests.

“The morality police had nothing to do with the judiciary and the same institution that established it, has now abolished it,” Mohammad Jafar Montazeri said at a religious event. by the semi-official ISNA and ILNA news agencies, as well as by several other media.

Montazeri, who is not tasked with overseeing morality enforcement in his role as attorney general, added that “the judiciary will continue to oversee social behavior.”

It wasn’t clear if he meant that the morality police would be abolished for good or that they would return in some form.

Montazeri’s brief, unscripted comment came in response to a question about “why the morality police were shut down,” media reported.

NBC News cannot independently verify its comments.

Iran’s Interior Ministry and police have not commented on the status of the vice squad.

Official state media that attended the event did not report on Montazeri’s comments, reporting that they were not sanctioned by the political establishment.

Iran has been gripped by months of protests, sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old from Iran’s Kurdistan region, who died in hospital three days after being arrested by vice squad in september.

Amini allegedly failed to fully cover her hair and defied the country’s strict dress codes when she was arrested in the Iranian capital, Tehran.

A coroner’s report said in October that Amini died of multiple organ failure and ruled out blows to the head and body as the cause of her death. Police said Amini died after falling ill and falling into a coma, but her family said witnesses told them officers beat her. The police denied this allegation.

After his death, young protesters took to the streets, tearing off their hijabs and desecrating the symbols of the Islamic Republic. With women and girls in the foreground, videos have emerged on social media showing many of them removing and burning their headscarves and cutting their hair in public, in open defiance of the cleric-ruled Islamic Republic.

Demands for women’s rights then morphed into broader calls for the overthrow of the regime, posing one of the most serious challenges to the Iranian government since the 1979 revolution. Some chanted slogans against the Supreme Leader, the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and President Ebrahim Raisi.

The government has blamed what it calls “foreign enemies” for stoking the unrest.

General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, commander of the paramilitary Revolutionary Guards’ Aerospace Division, was quoted late last month by a website close to the Guards as saying that more than 300 people had been killed, including “martyrs “, an apparent reference to security forces.

Human Rights Activists in Iran, a US-based rights group, said in a tweet on Saturday that at least 470 protesters had been killed and more than 18,000 detained so far.

NBC News cannot independently verify either figure.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken praised the “extraordinary courage” of Iranian women for “standing up, speaking out, standing up for their basic rights,” in an interview with NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell late last month.

Iran's attorney general warns that morality police could be 'abolished'

Meanwhile, the official IRNA news agency reported on Sunday that authorities on Sunday executed four people accused of working for the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad. Three others were sentenced to long prison terms.

Members of the network stole and destroyed private and public property and abducted individuals and interrogated them, according to the report. He said the alleged spies had weapons and received salaries from the Mossad in the form of cryptocurrency.

IRNA identified the executed prisoners as Hossein Ordoukhanzadeh, Shahin Imani Mahmoudabadi, Milad Ashrafi and Manouchehr Shahbandi. Three other members of the group were sentenced to between five and 10 years in prison, the news agency reported.

NBC News was unable to verify this report.

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