Iranian Supreme Leader Calls Suspected Poisonings 'Unforgiveable Crime'


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Iran's Supreme Leader on Monday described a series of suspected poisonings at girls' schools as an "unforgiveable crime."

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said if authorities determine they were deliberate poisonings, "those behind this crime should be sentenced to capital punishment, and there will be no amnesty for them," according to the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA).

It was the first time Khamenei had spoken publicly about the suspected poisonings of hundreds of children, which have sparked a wave of public anger in Iran.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi last week ordered an investigation into the illnesses among schoolgirls at more than 50 schools dating back to November.

The illnesses were spread among at least 21 of Iran's 30 provinces.

In Washington, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Monday, "The possibility that girls in Iran are being possibly poisoned simply for trying to get an education is shameful. It's unacceptable."

She called for "a credible independent investigation" into the suspected poisonings and said such a probe could fall under the purview of the United Nations.

"If these poisonings are related to participation in protests, then it is well within the mandate of the U.N. independent international fact-finding mission on Iran to investigate," she said.

The suspected poisonings come after months of protests in Iran sparked by the death of a young woman who had been detained by morality police for allegedly breaching the country's strict dress code for women.

Some activists who have been involved in the protests have accused the authorities of carrying out the poisonings to retaliate against schoolgirls who have participated in the demonstrations.

Iranian authorities have not provided any details on the suspected poisonings or who might be behind them.

Officials have accused unnamed "enemies" of the country of using the attacks to undermine Iran's government.

On Monday, Iranian media reported that authorities arrested a journalist based out of Qom, Ali Pourtabatabaei, who had been regularly reporting on the suspected poisonings.

Some information for this story came from The Associated Press, Reuters, and Agence-France Presse.