Family members of man killed during Iran protests arrested -Mehr news agency

Iranian protesters gather around a fire during a demonstration against an increase in gasoline prices in the capital Tehran, on November 16, 2019. (AFP)
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Updated 24 December 2019

Family members of man killed during Iran protests arrested -Mehr news agency

  • Relatives of a young man who was shot dead during demonstrations last month has been arrested
  • Security forces have been on high alert for any events that could spark further unrest

GENEVA: Iranian authorities have arrested relatives of a young man who was shot dead during demonstrations last month, the semi-official Mehr news agency reported on Tuesday, citing an informed source.
The Mehr report did not specify which of Pouya Bakhtiari’s family members had been arrested but Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of New York-based advocacy group the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) said they included his parents, citing information from activists who had visited the family on Monday.
The Ministry of Intelligence and judiciary offices in Karaj, a town west of Tehran, had each summoned Bakhtiari’s father, Manouchehr, twice for questioning in the past week, a report posted on CHRI’s website on Tuesday said.
They asked him to call off a commemoration ceremony in the town of Karaj, west of Tehran, on Dec. 26 — the 40th day after his son’s death, as often observed by Shiite Muslims, Iran’s religious majority — citing concerns it could create unrest.
Manouchehr, who in an Instagram post last week had invited local and foreign media to attend the commemoration ceremony, refused to cancel it, he told CHRI.
CHRI says the 27-year-old Bakhtiari “died of a bullet wound to the head” in Karaj on Nov. 16.
Mehr noted that Bakhtiari had been “killed in a suspicious way” during the recent unrest.
Its report cited an informed source as saying the arrests were “to maintain order and security of the honorable people who have faced damages, and with the intent of preventing ... the repeat of armed action against the people.”
Security forces have been on high alert for any events that could spark further unrest after protests against a hike in fuel prices which turned political last month, sparking the bloodiest crackdown in the 40-year history of the Islamic Republic.
About 1,500 people were killed during less than two weeks of unrest that started on Nov. 15, three Iranian interior ministry officials told Reuters according to a report published on Monday.
That figure is much higher than estimated by international human rights groups and was dismissed as “fake news” by a spokesman for Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, according to semi-official news agency Tasnim.
Some family members of people killed for political or other reasons unrelated to the protests last month have also said Dec. 26 should be a day of commemoration, according to CHRI.


UK PM Johnson’s support plunges over Cummings scandal

Updated 8 min 1 sec ago

UK PM Johnson’s support plunges over Cummings scandal

LONDON: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson saw his public support suffer the sharpest fall for a Conservative leader in a decade Wednesday as he prepared to be grilled by lawmakers over his handling of the Dominic Cummings scandal.
Johnson has stuck by Cummings despite a public and political backlash over his top aide’s travels to visit family despite the government’s strict rules to curb the coronavirus pandemic.
“The Cummings affair seems to have really cut through to the public and is taking a rapid toll on support for the government in general and the prime minister in particular,” Tim Bale, Professor of Politics at Queen Mary University of London, told AFP.
“The danger is that it triggers and reinforces a long-held concern among British voters that the Conservative Party cares more about its rich friends than about ordinary folk.”
A YouGov poll for The Times newspaper showed the Conservative lead over the main opposition Labour party shrink by nine points in a week.
The survey put the Tories on 44 percent — down four points — and Labour on 38 percent, up five points over the past seven days.
The last Tory leader to see his lead fall by the same amount was David Cameron during the 2010 general election campaign.
A poll in the Daily Mail newspaper showed Johnson’s approval rating had plummeted from 19 percent to minus one percent in just a few days — despite leading his party to a comprehensive general election victory just six months ago.
Cummings, one of the architects of the 2016 Brexit campaign, drove his wife and young son on a 264-mile (425-kilometer) trip from London to Durham, northeast England, during the strictest phase of Britain’s coronavirus lockdown.
His wife had by then developed COVID-19 symptoms, and Cummings himself came down with the virus a few days later.
Cummings has also admitted taking a 60-mile round trip to a local beauty spot — as he explained, to test his eyesight — before driving back to London.
Although some have suggested the support and criticism of Cummings is split along pro- and anti-Brexit lines, Bale says public disquiet goes further.
“An awful lot of Leavers think the whole thing stinks — something that should worry the government, big-time.”
The polls add to a sense of growing revolt over the government’s handling of Cummings, with nearly 40 Tory MPs demanding he lose his job, while one junior minister has quit in protest.
Among those to add his criticism of Cummings overnight was former foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt, who came second to Johnson in last year’s Conservative leadership contest
Hunt, in a letter to a constituent, said that Cummings had broken the government’s own rules and that there were “clearly mistakes,” the Guardian reported.
However, cabinet minister Robert Jenrick, the housing, communities and local government secretary, backed Johnson’s top adviser on Wednesday.
“I think, is the time for us all to move on,” he told the BBC, adding that Cummings had not broken any government guidelines.
He added that anyone could drive across the country to seek childcare in the same way that Cummings did, but said there would be no review of fines imposed on those who have done that before now, contradicting suggestions on Tuesday from Health Secretary Matt Hancock.
Britain is one of the worst-hit countries by the pandemic, with more than 46,000 deaths attributed to COVID-19 by mid-May, according to official statistics released Tuesday.
Johnson’s government, whose tally only includes deaths confirmed by a positive test, has counted 37,048 fatalities.