Iranian President Rouhani punched in the face at a campaign rally

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was punched in the face by a man in the crowd during a campaign event on Sunday, an incident that is likely to lead to calls for tough criminal charges against him.

Rouhani was in the southern city of Qasr-e Shirin when he addressed supporters about his policies. As he took his microphone off to answer one of the people in the crowd, a man in the crowd shouted: “Give us the rope,” then punched him in the face, with the crowd of mostly elderly people around erupting in laughter.

A member of the crowd then rushed to Rouhani’s defense and held the man until security guards could arrive and escort him away. Rouhani was then allowed to return to his seat.

“It was not a protest. These kind of things happened whenever we held government rallies,” an official in the public relations section of the local administration of Qasr-e Shirin told state media. “Those holding these rallies are from all walks of life. It is not a problem, and no governor has complained.”

“It was unfortunate that such an incident happened, but maybe it shouldn’t,” Rouhani said, according to the BBC.

The incident was reminiscent of an incident back in April, when a group of men also started to curse at Rouhani and one of them turned to punch him in the face. Instead of punching back, however, Rouhani immediately called for restraint.

On Sunday, Rouhani has already vowed to press charges and bring the perpetrators to justice. “Such a person is a criminal,” he said, according to state media. “If I have faults, I want them to be dealt with legally, not in such a way.”

On Monday, officials in Qasr-e Shirin said that following the man’s arrest, security personnel had located and barred him from the city.

The video of the incident has already gone viral, causing some video-bloggers in Iran to accuse Rouhani of being a hypocrite. “The supporters of the Rouhani administration cheered when Rouhani was slapped,” one video-blogger wrote. “Anyone who knows this arena, understands that there is a lot of pressure there.”

Read the full story at The New York Times.


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