DUBAI, Sept 2 (Reuters) – Amnesty International accused Iran‘s clerical establishment on Wednesday of presiding over widespread abuses of human rights in a security crackdown on nationwide protests last year touched off by fuel price rises.

The London-based human rights group issued a report including allegations of “rape, enforced disappearance, torture and other ill-treatment” of those detained for involvement in the November 2019 unrest that buffeted the Islamic Republic.

The protests began over fuel price hikes but turned broadly political when thousands of mainly working-class demonstrators across the country demanded top officials step down.

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“Those arrested included peaceful protesters and bystanders, among whom were schoolchildren as young as 10 years old,” said Amnesty’s report, citing what it called credible reports by witnesses and victims’ families, verified videos and information from human rights activists.

Iranian authorities said some 200,000 people took part in the protests, while the head of parliament’s national security committee said at least 7,000 were arrested. Rights groups said the figure was in the thousands. The judiciary said in January that the majority of detainees had been released.

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Amnesty’s report said Iranian security services used torture against detainees including “waterboarding, beating, flogging, electric shocks, pepper-spraying genitals, sexual violence, mock executions, pulling out nails and solitary confinement, sometimes for weeks or even months”.

Iranian officials were not immediately available for comment on the report. In the past, Iran has dismissed criticism of its human rights record as baseless.

Amnesty said 304 men, women and children were killed by security forces during the protests, most from gunshot wounds, but that the true death toll was “likely much higher”.

Iranian authorities said the number of those killed in the unrest was 225, including members of the security forces. In December, citing Iranian officials, Reuters reported that some 1,500 people were killed.

Amnesty also said detainees put on trial “suffered grossly unfair judicial proceedings” by being denied access to lawyers and forced to make confessions under torture. Dozens of protesters have been sentenced to long terms in prison.

(Writing by Parisa Hafezi Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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