Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has severely criticized the United States for a policy of separating children from immigrant parents who try to cross illegally into the United States from Mexico.
U.S. President Donald Trump stopped the policy on June 20 amid an outcry not only from Khamenei but from dozens of other world leaders and human rights groups -- including several former U.S. presidents and first ladies.
"The matter of separating thousands of children from their mothers is a serious issue. One cannot watch with a sound state of mind these children crying on TV," Khamenei told lawmakers in a speech published on his website.
"How can they commit such a crime of separating children from their mothers for the excuse of implementing some policy? This shows how evil they really are."
While the policy was in effect, more than 2,000 children were separated from their parents or guardians by U.S. Border Patrol authorities. Proponents had argued that the policy was needed to discourage people from migrating to the United States illegally.
But the policy provoked an outcry both at home and abroad, and was denounced by leaders of Trump's own Republican Party -- including two Republican ex-presidents -- as well as evangelical Christian groups that have been stalwart Trump supporters.
Khamenei regularly denounces the U.S. government, but has stepped up criticism since Trump last month abandoned Iran's 2015 nuclear agreement with world powers and ordered the reinstatement of harsh sanctions on Iran.
Trump and the U.S. State Department have frequently accused Iran of violating its citizens' rights to free speech, fair trials, and other global human rights.
On another matter, Khamenei in his address to lawmakers on June 20 said they needed not make extraordinary efforts to pass legislation against money laundering by terrorists, which is needed for Iran to get off a global terrorism-financing blacklist.
Debate on the legislation was suspended earlier this month after Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal.
Describing parliament as "mature and wise," Khamenei said lawmakers "must independently make legislation on issues such as terrorism or combating money laundering" and need not follow the recommendations of global terrorism watchdogs.
"Of course, some of the provisions of international conventions may be good, but there's no need to join these conventions," Khamenei said, according to his website.
Hard-liners in Iran's parliament have opposed passing legislation that complies with global standards, arguing that it will hamper Iranian financial support for Lebanon's Hizballah and the Palestinian group Hamas.
The military wings of both of those groups have been classified as a terrorist organizations by the United States and European Union.
Western leaders and foreign businesses have warned that Iran must bring its laws in line with international standards if it hopes to increase foreign investment in its economy.
Iran's inclusion on the terrorism-financing blacklist held back Western investment despite the sanctions relief Iran received under the nuclear agreement in exchange for curbs on its nuclear activities.