Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei claimed on Monday that protests inside the country were the work of Israel and the United States.
At least 92 people have been killed in protests over the death of 22-year old Mahsa Amini after her arrest by the morality police.
Amini was pronounced dead on September 16 after she was detained for allegedly breaching rules requiring women to wear hijabs and modest clothes. Her death sparked Iran's biggest wave of popular unrest in almost three years.
Khamenei spoke about the protests this week for the first time since they began, telling an audience of police students in Tehran that “rioting” was a foreign plot to destabilize the country, CBC News reported.
Describing Amini’s death a “sad accident,” he alleged that the protests were not organized by outraged Iranians but by agents of Israel and the US.
"This rioting was planned," he said. "These riots and insecurities were designed by America and the Zionist regime, and their employees."
He added that protesters deserved to be imprisoned, claiming that participants in demonstrations were out to “sabotage” the country and should face harsh punishment.
Young Iranian who "come to the streets after excitement after watching something on the internet [should be] disciplined,” Khamenei said, referring to the fact that most protesters are reportedly under 25-years old.