Iran says it will sue US, alleges 'direct involvement' in protests

Hande Atay Alam Tara Subramaniam

Iran said Saturday it would take legal action against the United States, accusing it of "direct involvement" in the protests sweeping the country.

Tehran also warned Britain and Saudi Arabia "will not be ignored by the Islamic Republic's judicial system" for their role in hosting and supporting TV networks such as BBC Persian and Iran International - which it claims have urged protesters "to destroy public and private property."

Anti-government protests have gripped Iran since the September 16 death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who died after being pulled from the streets of Tehran by the moral police and taken to a "re-education center" for decency lessons.

Strikes and protests have become a common sight in cities across the country and in the capital shouts of "death to the dictator" - a reference to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei - can often be heard at night from rooftops.

Footage from a video flyer provided by Iranian state TV (IRIB) of Iranian competitive climber Elnaz Rekabi speaking to reporters upon arrival at Imam Khomeini International Airport in Tehran, Iran, October 19, 2022. Rekabi returns to Tehran after competing in South Korea without wearing the mandatory headscarf for female Iranian athletes from the Islamic Republic. Rekabi described her not wearing the hijab as an unintentional act as she was in a hurry to prepare for the competition, and apologized for it.

Iranian competitive climber Elnaz Rekabi returns home, Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran - Oct 19, 2022

Iranian rock climber Elnaz Rekabi thanks supporters on social media, as officials deny he is under house arrest

US President Joe Biden has put his support behind the demonstrators, pledging costs "to perpetrators of violence against peaceful protesters" and saying the US supports "brave Iranian women who are currently demonstrating to secure their basic rights."

The US has also announced sanctions against Iran's morality police "for harassment and violence against Iranian women and violations of the rights of peaceful Iranian protesters" and is working to make it easier for Iranians to access the internet.

This is not the first time Iran has accused the US of meddling in anti-government protests – Iran made a similar claim in 2018.

State news agency IRNA reported on Saturday that the Department of Justice "has been tasked with filing a lawsuit to investigate the damage and interference caused by the direct US involvement in the riots." It also reports on claims against the BBC and Iran International, made by Iran's deputy head of Justice and secretary of the country's High Human Rights Council Kazem Gharibabadi.

The report did not specify which court would hear such a case.

Solidarity strikes and protests

Meanwhile protests have continued both in Iran and in solidarity movements around the world, with massive demonstrations in Berlin and Tokyo on Saturday.

In Iran, business owners and factory workers from the Kurdistan region went on strike and students from universities across the country joined the demonstrations.

Video shared to CNN by pro-reform activist outlet IranWire, shows Sanandaj, the capital of the Kurdish region, very quiet at the start of the work week as shops remain closed.

Norway-based Iranian rights group Hengaw said shop owners were also on strike in Not, Sanandaj and Marivan, although CNN was unable to independently verify these reports.

On Saturday, a video of protests against the Iranian regime from IranWire showed a crowd at Tehran's Shahid Behasti University chanting "Freedom, freedom, death of dictator, death of Khamenei."

Students at Tabriz University in East Azerbaijan province also took to the streets chanting in unison that regime change was imminent, according to IranWire, and at Yazd University in Yazd province, students sang the century-old pre-revolutionary national anthem.

An eyewitness told CNN that young girls from local schools who joined protests calling for "freedom" and "death to dictators" were arrested by police moments later and loaded into black vans.

Outside Iran, a video published by Radio Free Liberty showed protesters on a sidewalk in Sydney, Australia, chanting "freedom" on Saturday.

German state broadcaster RBB reported a solidarity protest with nearly 80,000 people in Berlin.

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