Kabul: Iran’s supreme leader said on Monday that if a series of suspected poisonings at girls’ schools are proven to be deliberate the culprits should be sentenced to death for committing an “unforgivable crime.”
It was the first time Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say on all matters of state, has spoken publicly about the suspected poisonings, which began late last year and have led to hundreds of children falling ill, Associated Press reported.
“If the poisoning of students is proven, those behind this crime should be sentenced to capital punishment and there will be no amnesty for them,” Khamenei said, according to the state-run IRNA news agency.
Authorities have acknowledged suspected attacks at more than 50 schools across 21 of Iran’s 30 provinces since November.
Iran’s Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi said over the weekend that “suspicious samples” had been gathered by investigators, without elaborating. He called on the public to remain calm and accused enemies of inciting fear to undermine the Islamic Republic.
Vahidi said at least 52 schools had been affected by suspected poisonings, while Iranian media reports have put the number of schools at over 60. At least one boy’s school reportedly has been affected.
The children affected in the poisonings have reportedly complained of headaches, heart palpitations, feeling lethargic or otherwise unable to move. Some described smelling tangerines, chlorine or cleaning agents.