Iranian policeman killed in clashes amid widespread protests
Major Iraj Javaheri was reportedly shot in the back after clashes erupted when protesters attacked police headquarters in the western city, state media reported on the second day of widespread protests against a hike in petrol prices.
Javaheri was shot in a standoff with "rioters and thugs" on Saturday and succumbed to his wounds on Sunday, according to IRNA state news agency.
The death came as security forces arrested some 40 protesters in the Iranian city of Yazd, state media reported.
The protests flared hours after it was announced in the early hours of Friday that the price of petrol would be raised by 50 percent for the first 60 litres (16 gallons) and by 300 percent for anything above that each month.
The measure was expected to bring in 300 trillion rials ($2.55 billion) per annum, the head of the country's Planning and Budget Organisation, Mohammad Bagher Nobakht, said on state television.
About 60 million Iranians in need would get payments ranging from 550,000 rials ($4.68) for couples to slightly more than two million rials ($17.46) for families with five members or more, he said.
Under the scheme, drivers with fuel cards will pay 15,000 rials (13 US cents) a litre for the first 60 litres of petrol bought each month, with each additional litre costing them 30,000 rials.
One other person was killed and others injured when people tried to set fire to a fuel depot but were thwarted by security forces on Saturday.
Iran’s economy is suffering under severe economic sanctions imposed by President Trump since May 2018, when he pulled Washington out of the 2015 deal with world powers that imposed controls on Tehran's nuclear program in exchange for a lifting of sanctions.
Since wide-ranging sanctions were reimposed on Iran, the rial has plummeted, inflation is running at more than 40 percent and the International Monetary Fund expects Iran's economy to contract by nine percent this year and stagnate in 2020.
Iran's supreme leader on Sunday threw his support behind a decision to impose petrol price hikes and rationing, a move that sparked angry protests in the sanctions-hit country.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei blamed "hooligans" for damaging property and said "all the centres of the world's wickedness against us have cheered" the unrest.
Khamenei said that "I am not an expert and there are different opinions but I had said that if the heads of the three branches make a decision I will support it".
"The heads of the branches made a decision with the backing of expert opinion and naturally it must be implemented," he said in a speech aired on state television.
"Some people would definitely get upset over this decision... but damaging and setting fire (to property) is not something (normal) people would do, it is hooligans," he added.
Khamenei also pointed at regime opponents abroad in what he called "the centres of the world's wickedness".
These included the Pahlavi royal family ousted in the 1979 Islamic Revolution and the People's Mujahedeen of Iran (MEK) group, which Iran considers a "terrorist" cult.
"What I am asking is that no one help these criminals," the supreme leader said, calling on people to distance themselves from those stoking the street protests.
Some of the worst violence occurred in the central city of Sirjan, whose acting governor Mahmoudabadi said a civilian was killed but it was unclear if he had been "shot or not".
He said some people had "destroyed public property, damaged fuel stations and also wanted to access the oil company's main fuel depots and set fire to them".
Police spokesman Ahmad Nourian warned that security forces "will not hesitate to confront those disrupting peace and security and will identify the ringleaders and field forces and confront them".
He called on people to denounce "the opportunists and mercenaries" and help the police keep the peace, in comments quoted by ISNA.