Jan. 9 (UPI) -- About 3,700 people were arrested nationwide during the recent anti-government protests in Iran, a member of the country's parliament said.
Mahmoud Sadeghi, a Tehran MP, announced the official count on Tuesday after the state-run ICANA news agency reported that 1,000 people had been arrested during the week of demonstrations that began in December.
"Due to the fact that several security organizations had made the arrests, it will take some time to give an accurate count," Sadeghi said.
Protests over food prices and other economic problems began Dec. 28 in Iran's second-largest city of Mashhad, where the provincial government of the northern region of the city said 85 percent of detainees there were released after signing a pledge not to re-offend. Violence that broke out at several protests killed 22 people after unrest spilled into more than 80 cities across Iran.
Iranian officials accused the country's "enemies" of instigating and orchestrating the protests -- the country's first large-scale demonstrations since the 2009 election. Tens of thousands took part in subsequent pro-government rallies to support the establishment leadership.
Iranian Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei blamed outside influence for the protests.
"This is due to our people's continued support. The solid people's stand will again tell the U.S., U.K. and those who live in London that you failed this time and will fail again." Human rights activists are now concerned about protesters dying in prison.
"I spoke to a prisoner in Evin prison and I was told that three detainees had lost their lives," Nasrin Sotoudeh, a human rights lawyer, told The Guardian. "When authorities resort to mass arrests, they cannot claim to protect their rights. It is not possible in such a situation for the judicial process to take its due course."