Canada’s Trudeau deletes tweet falsely claiming Iran sentenced 15,000 protesters to death


Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau deleted a tweet containing false information about mass death sentences in Iran after a viral social media campaign spread the fake news.

Celebrities and users shared a photo on Instagram of a woman holding an Iranian flag with the caption “Iran sentences 15,000 protesters to death – as a ‘hard lesson’ for all rebels.”

Instagram has since tagged the post as “False Information,” saying, “Independent fact-checkers say this information has no basis in fact.”

The post, which has since been deleted, was shared by celebrities, including actresses Sophie Turner and Viola Davis.

Iran has cracked down on protesters but has not sentenced 15,000 to death.

Trudeau tweeted late Monday that Canada is denouncing the Iranian regime’s “barbaric decision to impose the death penalty on nearly 15,000 protesters.” The tweet was online for 12 hours before being deleted.

“The post was informed by the initial reporting which was incomplete and lacked necessary context. That’s why it has since been removed,” a Canadian government spokesman told CNN.

“It was based on the reporting of grave concerns from international human rights lawyers who warned of possible future punishments, including the death penalty, imposed on thousands of Iranian protesters already detained by the regime,” the spokesman added.

CNN has contacted Iran’s foreign ministry for comment.

Iranian lawmakers are demanding that the country’s judiciary “show no leniency” to protesters, but so far this week one person has been officially sentenced to death by the judiciary. However, the UN warned last week that others risk facing a similar punishment.

“With the continued suppression of protests, many more indictments could soon be issued on charges carrying the death penalty and death sentences,” UN experts said last week.

“We must not lose sight of the fact that one person has already been sentenced to death and that Iranian parliamentarians should not call for death sentences. Dozens of demonstrators have already been killed by the regime’s security forces,” the Canadian government spokesman said.

Public trials of arrested protesters began in November.

Iran has arrested more than 14,000 people in a crackdown since protests began across Iran in September, Javaid Rehman, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Iran, said earlier this month.

At least 2,000 people were charged for their alleged involvement in the nationwide protests following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, the largest demonstration of dissent in years. The trials are public and have been going on for more than two weeks. The verdicts can be appealed, state news agency IRNA said.

At least 326 people were killed in the protests, according to human rights groups. CNN cannot independently verify the arrest numbers, death toll and many of the accounts of the dead due to the Iranian government’s suppression of the media, the internet and transparency.

Iran’s Revolutionary Court has issued a death sentence against the unnamed protester who allegedly set fire to a government building, state media reported on Sunday. Five others who took part in the protests were sentenced to prison terms of five to 10 years for “conspiracy to commit a crime against national security and disturbance of public order and peace”.

The protests have sparked a fierce battle to control the narrative online, with both government supporters and opponents taking to social media to tell their version of the truth.

Now that access to Twitter has been blocked in Iran, that battle is mainly fought outside the country.

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