Iran police say death of Mahsa Amini was ‘unfortunate’

Iranian newspapers on sale in Tehran show photographs of Mahsa Amini on 18 September 2022

Tehran’s police chief says the death of a woman in custody was an “unfortunate” incident he does not want repeated.

Mahsa Amini, 22, fell into a coma last week, hours after morality police held her for allegedly breaking hijab rules.

Witnesses accused officers of beating her, but Police Brig-Gen Hossein Rahimi denied such “cowardly accusations”.

Her death sparked protests in the capital and western Iran, where two people were reportedly killed in clashes with riot police on Monday.

Videos posted on social media appeared to show a crowd throwing stones in the town of Divandarreh and later running after coming under fire.

Other footage showed protests in the capital, where women removed their headscarves and shouted “death to the dictator” – a chant often used in reference to the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Ms Amini, an ethnic Kurd who was from the western city of Saqez in Kurdistan province, died in hospital on Friday after spending three days in a coma.

She was detained outside a metro station in Tehran on Tuesday by morality police. They accused her of breaking the law requiring women to cover their hair with a headscarf, and their arms and legs with loose clothing.

According to witnesses, she was beaten while inside a police van that took her to a detention centre.

Police rejected the allegation and said she suffered “sudden heart failure” while waiting with other women at the facility to be “educated”.

They released CCTV footage that showed a woman they identified as Ms Amini talking with a female official, who grabs her clothing. She is then seen holding her head with her hands and collapsing to the ground.

The interior minister said on Saturday that Ms Amini “apparently had previous physical problems”.

However, her father told pro-reform news outlets on Sunday that she was “fit and had no health problems”. He also said his daughter had suffered bruising to her legs and that the CCTV footage showed an “edited version” of events.

On Monday, Brig-Gen Rahimi expressed sympathy to Ms Amini’s family, but insisted that she suffered no physical harm.

“The evidence shows that there was no negligence or inappropriate behaviour on the part of the police,” he told reporters.

The death triggered widespread criticism of the actions of the morality police, which¬†recently launched a crackdown on “improper clothing”.

Protests erupted in Saqez after her funeral on Saturday, with security forces reportedly opening fire on a crowd that marched towards the local governor’s office.

There were also clashes between protesters and riot police in Sanandaj, Kurdistan’s capital, on Saturday and Sunday.

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