Italy demands Iran halt its deadly crackdown on protesters

ROME (AP) — Italy’s foreign minister on Wednesday summoned Iran’s new ambassador to Rome to express his country’s concerns over the Iranian authorities’ crackdown on anti-government protests that have been underway for over three months.

Conveying Italy’s “indignation and worry” over the crackdown, Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said he hopes that Iran will respond “positively to Italy’s request.”

The deadly crackdown, he said, “has nothing to do with protecting national security of the country.’’

Tajani also said Italy was asking that Tehran suspend the death penalty in connection with the protests and immediately halt the executions of prisoners held over the demonstrations.

Tajani added that the Iranian ambassador, Mohammad Reza Saburi, who took up his post on Wednesday, agreed to convey Italy’s requests.

Iran has been shaken by mass protests since mid-September over the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian Kurdish woman who died after being detained by the country’s morality police for allegedly violating Iran’s strict dress code for women.

The protests rapidly escalated into calls for the overthrow of Iran’s theocracy, established after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, marking one of the biggest challenges to the Iranian clerical rule in over four decades.

At least 507 protesters have been killed and more than 18,500 people have been arrested, according to Human Rights Activists in Iran, a group that has closely monitored the unrest. Iranian authorities have not released figures for those killed or arrested.

“We only ask that women aren’t massacred because they take off their veil,’’ Tajani said. “We ask that young women are not condemned to death because they take part in protests, that children are not killed at roadblocks.”

Seeking to stamp out the demonstrations and ramp up pressure on critics, Iran has sentenced several protesters to death and carried out two executions despite widespread international criticism.

The European Union foreign ministers, including Tajani, imposed new sanctions earlier this month over the crackdown, targeting senior clerics, officials and state media employees with travel bans and freezing the assets of 20 individuals.

The Associated Press