Iran leader calls for 'Islamic mercy' after bloody crackdown

Iranian protesters clash in the streets following fuel price increase in the city of Isfahan central Iran

A United Nations agency also has said it fears the unrest may have killed "a significant number of people".

The protests erupted in cities and towns across Iran on 15 November, after the government announced that the price of petrol would rise by 50% to 15,000 rials a litre ($0.12; £0.09 at the unofficial market exchange rate), and that drivers would be allowed to purchase only 60 litres each month before the price rose to 30,000 rials.

Iran's top court announced the ruling after receiving up to 360 complaints from Iranian citizens since President Trump pulled the USA out of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPA), popularly known as the Iran nuclear deal, Newsweek reported Tuesday. Authorities cut access to most of the internet as protests raged, making it hard to track the violence and the government response.

However, Rouhani's advocacy of airing prisoners' "confessions" reminds many Iranians of the forced confessions of various political, social, and cultural figures who have appeared on the state-run television in the past four decades to make self-incriminating confessions and to accuse others.

State TV alleged some of the dead were "rioters who have attacked sensitive or military centres with firearms or knives, or have taken hostages in some areas".

In one case, the report said security forces confronted a separatist group armed with "semi-heavy weapons" in the city of Mahshahr in Iran's southwestern Khuzestan province.

On Sunday, the New York Times cited witnesses and medics in Mahshahr as saying that members of the Revolutionary Guards surrounded, shot and killed 40 to 100 demonstrators in a marsh where they had sought refuge. The report described others killed as passers-by, security forces and peaceful protesters, without assigning blame for their deaths. But it warned that the actual number was likely to be higher.

It added that it had compiled the death toll by interviewing and crosschecking a range of sources inside and outside Iran including victims' relatives, journalists and human rights activists involved in gathering the information.

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Trump, in London for a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation summit, told reporters on Tuesday the United States did not support the anti-government unrest, but soon afterward tweeted that it did back "the fearless people of Iran who are protesting for their freedom".

"I think it's a bad thing and I think the world has to be watching", Trump said.

Iranian judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili disputed Amnesty International's death toll.

Mr Esmaili also said that most of those detained "during the riots" had been released.

Separately, official figures showed 300 protesters remain in custody in Tehran.

The Intelligence Ministry said last week that at least eight people linked to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had been arrested during the unrest, which was snuffed out last week by a security crackdown.

The demonstrations began November 15 after the government raised minimum gasoline prices by 50 per cent to 15,000 Iranian rials per liter.

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