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Bipartisan lawmakers condemn Iran, dispute State Department on number of protesters killed

Bipartisan lawmakers condemn Iran, dispute State Department on number of protesters killed
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Bipartisan lawmakers in the House introduced a resolution Tuesday that decries Tehran's violent crackdown on anti-government protests but contests the State Department's assessment of the number of Iranians killed in the demonstrations that began last month.

Reps. Ted DeutchTheodore (Ted) Eliot DeutchShakespeare Theatre Company goes virtual for 'Will on the Hill...or Won't They?' Florida Democrat introduces bill to recognize Puerto Rico statehood referendum Matt Gaetz, Roger Stone back far-right activist Laura Loomer in congressional bid MORE (D-Fla.) and Joe WilsonAddison (Joe) Graves WilsonDemocrats raise alarm about new US human rights priorities Democrat Teresa Leger Fernandez defeats Valerie Plame in New Mexico primary Trump campaign launches new fundraising program with House Republicans MORE (R-S.C.) condemned Tehran for the use of lethal force and cited reported deaths of at least 208 individuals, in line with reports from human rights organizations like Amnesty International but lower than a State Department announcement that close to 1,000 people have likely been killed.

Tehran has responded with brutal violence against popular demonstrations that have spread across the country since Nov. 15, when Iranians took to the streets protesting an abrupt and dramatic rise in fuel prices.

The State Department said it has received more than 30,000 communications from Iranians with video and photographic evidence of human rights abuses. U.S. special envoy for Iran Brian Hook said last week that the department believes at least 1,000 were killed, some as young as 13 years old. He said thousands more were wounded and at least 7,000 detained in prison.

Amnesty International, while believing the number of killed to be high, said it has credible reports for at least 208 deaths.

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The State Department’s number most closely matches that provided by The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), an umbrella group of Iranian dissident groups founded by the leader of the Mujahadeen-e-Khalq (MEK). Both the NCRI and MEK had earlier been designated foreign terrorist organizations but were removed from the list in 2012.

A spokesman for Deutch did not immediately respond to comment about the number cited in the resolution.

The lawmakers agree that at least 7,000 people are detained in prison, and the resolution text also condemns the regime for refusing to return the bodies of those killed and for a massacre in the city of Mahshahr, where security forces killed at least 100 people with machine gun fire.

"As Iranians from across the country take to the streets to protest their oppressive government, they are met with violence and live fire by Iranian authorities leading to the deaths of hundreds of innocent people," said Deutch and Wilson, the chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East, North Africa and International Terrorism.

“Congress stands with the Iranian people. The Iranian government must end its violent suppression of the protests and respect the Iranian people's right to live in a free society."

Wilson said the resolution sends a strong bipartisan message to the people of Iran supporting their democratic aspirations and saying the congress “will do everything in our power to hold this regime accountable for its deliberate human rights violations.”