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Iran has dismissed Western criticism of its deadly crackdown that has killed dozens and led to at least 1,200 arrests since protests broke out after a 22-year-old woman's death in custody for allegedly breaking the country's Islamic dress code.

Iranian judiciary officials also said they had set up special courts to try protesters, whom they claimed were "hired from abroad."

Meanwhile, defiant demonstrations erupted again after nightfall on September 26.

The unrest has spread to more than 80 cities and towns, including in northwestern Iran where Mahsa Amini lived before eyewitnesses and family said she was beaten after being seized by the country's morality police in Tehran on September 13.

The Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights (IHR) said on September 26 that at least 76 protesters have been killed, nearly double the number acknowledged by Iranian officials.

Shared videos and eyewitness reports said the protests kicked off for an 11th night late on September 26 in Tehran, Narmak, Sanandaj, and other places and included chants of "Death to the dictator!" in reference to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

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Other chants in cities like Qorveh in Kurdistan Province included "Death to Khamenei!"

Video of young women in Sanandaj showed them removing their mandated head scarves and hugging in the street.

Earlier in the day, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock urged "very quick" debate within the European Union on new sanctions on Iran in light of the brutality of the crackdown and the alleged abuse before Amini's death.

"We will now have to talk very quickly in EU circles about further consequences, and for me this also includes sanctions against those responsible," Baerbock told the dpa news agency.

She said "the attempt to suppress peaceful protests with even more deadly violence must not go unanswered."

The outrage over Amini's death has reignited decades-old resentment at the treatment of women by Iran's religious leadership, including so-called hijab laws forcing women to wear Islamic head scarves to cover their heads in public.

Baerbock called women's rights "the yardstick for the state of a society" and said that "if women are not safe in a country, no one is safe."

She said Berlin had summoned Iran's ambassador to the German Foreign Ministry.

Officials in Tehran have accused Western enemies and Iranian elements abroad of fomenting the unrest, whose official death toll is 41. But rights groups and Iran's record suggest that could be underreported, and IHR insisted the number of dead is now at least 76.

Security forces have used water cannons and fired live rounds into crowds of protesters, according to rights groups and video shared online. Protesters have thrown rocks and burned police cars and public buildings.

State media have cited officials as saying that the number of arrestees is above 1,200, including about 450 in the northern Mazandaran Province.

The United States last week announced sanctions on Iran's so-called morality police, and Canada said on September 26 that it would follow suit.

Josep Borrell, the European Union's high representative for foreign policy, has said that Iranian officials' "widespread and disproportionate use of force against nonviolent protesters is unjustifiable and unacceptable" and communications blackouts are "violating freedom of expression."

Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi last week said that the country must "deal decisively with those who oppose the country's security and tranquility," and the head of its powerful judiciary has pledged to act "without leniency" in the crackdown.

On September 26, Iran's Foreign Ministry rejected EU criticism.

"This is intervention in the internal affairs of Iran and support for the rioters," Foreign Ministry spokesman Naser Kanaani said.

The head of Iran's judiciary in the capital, Tehran, said that special courts would be set up to try demonstrators.

The Tasnim news agency quoted Ali Alghasi Mehr as pledging tough punishments against the "leaders of the troublemakers hired from abroad."

Mehr said such defendants would be treated like rapists and other serious criminals, who can face the death penalty under Iran's notoriously secretive justice system.

With reporting by Reuters, dpa, and AFP

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