Iran indicts 11 over Basij agent's death, basketball team skips anthem

Protest over the death of Mahsa Amini, in Tehran

DUBAI (Reuters) -Iran's hardline judiciary has indicted 11 people over the killing of a Basij security force member during unrest, state media reported on Saturday, as authorities sought to quell nine weeks of protests.

State news agency IRNA said some of the 10 men and one woman were charged with "corruption on earth", which can be punishable by death, for crimes that led to the death of a member of the pro-government Basij volunteer militia on Nov. 3 in Karaj near Tehran.

The protests ignited by Mahsa Amini's death in the custody of morality police after her arrest for "inappropriate attire" mark one of the boldest challenges to the Islamic Republic since the 1979 revolution. Woman have played a prominent role, waving and burning headscarves enforced under strict dress codes.

Videos posted on social media purportedly showed the national basketball team refraining from singing the national anthem during a match with China in Tehran on Friday - widely seen as another show of support from athletes for the protests.

The activist HRANA news agency said 336 protesters had been killed in the unrest as of Friday, including 52 minors. Thirty-nine members of the security forces had also been killed, while nearly 15,100 have been detained, it said.

The widely-followed 1500tasvir Twitter account posted a video it said was from overnight protests in the Caspian Sea coastal town of Babolsar, showing petrol bombs thrown at a Basij base which is covered by pro-government banners.

HRANA posted videos purporting to show shopkeepers striking in the northwestern town of Sardasht and the city of Saqez, Amini's hometown. Another video showed what it said were student protests in the northern city of Babol.

Norway-based Iran Human Rights posted videos it said showed protests and sit-ins at three university campuses in Tehran and one in Karaj on Saturday.

Reuters could not independently verify the videos.

The Iranian government has condemned the protests as riots fomented by adversaries including the United States, and has accused armed separatist groups of perpetrating violence.

U.N. experts have urged Iran "to stop using the death penalty as a tool to squash protests", noting that charges carrying the death penalty were brought against eight people in Tehran on Oct. 29.

Iranians from all walks of life have taken part in protests, with opponents of the government heartened by what they have seen as a series of shows of support from Iranian athletes.

Earlier this week, videos posted on social media showed the national water polo team failing to sing the national anthem at a competition in Thailand.


On Friday, a cleric in the northwestern city of Urmia called during prayers for the punishment of athletes who refrained from singing the national anthem, according to Iranian news agencies.

An Iranian archer said she did not notice her hijab falling from her head during an awards ceremony in Tehran, after a video appeared to show her allowing the headscarf to drop in what was also widely assumed to be a show of support for the protests. Her statement was met with scepticism on social media.

The unrest has added to strains in Iran's ties with Western powers which have imposed sanctions on Iranian groups and individuals linked to the crackdown.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said he favoured a new round of European Union sanctions next week.

"We want to continue to step up the pressure on the Revolutionary Guard Corps and the political leadership," he said in a video posted on Twitter.

"Here in Germany, hundreds of thousands of fellow citizens with Iranian roots fear for their relatives. They are appalled and disgusted by what the Mullah regime is doing to the demonstrators. I'm also shocked by the images that reach us each and every day," he said.

France said on Saturday that two more of its citizens are likely being held in Iran, taking the total of its nationals detained there to seven.

France lashed out at Iran on Oct. 6, accusing it of "dictatorial practices" and taking its citizens hostage after a video was aired in which a French couple appeared to confess to spying.

Spain's foreign ministry said this week that two Spaniards identified as Santiago Sanchez Cogedor and Ana Baneira have been detained in Iran during the unrest.

(Reporting by Dubai newsroom; additional reporting by Tom Sims in Frankfurt, John Irish in Paris and Mdrid newsroom; Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)