The Iranian Judiciary and Iran’s National Security Council should put an immediate end to four years of extrajudicial house arrest of Green Movement leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi, Mehdi Karroubi and Zahra Rahnavard, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran said today.
The Campaign also seeks to call attention to the plight of hundreds of prisoners of conscience who remain in Iranian prisons, many of them since the crackdown on the peaceful protests that followed the disputed 2009 presidential election in Iran, with the “Free Them Now” initiative launched today.
“The effective imprisonment of opposition political candidates for over four years without charge is an obscene miscarriage of justice and a violation of Iranian and international law,” said Hadi Ghaemi, the executive director of the Campaign.
Iranian authorities initially ordered the house arrest of former presidential candidates Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, and their wives Zahra Rahnavard and Fatemeh Karroubi, in the week of February 14-21, 2011, after the Green Movement leaders publicly called for demonstrations in support of the popular uprisings at that time known as the “Arab Spring.” While Fatemeh Karroubi was eventually released, the other three have remained under house arrest without charges or prosecution since that time. Karroubi and Mousavi have also been denied critically needed medical treatment during this period of effective incarceration.
In recent months, Mehdi Karroubi has called on Iranian parliamentarian Ali Motahari to seek justice for the opposition leaders. Motahari, who is the highest ranking person in government to decry the detention of these three leaders, sent an open letter to the Head of the Iranian Judiciary, Sadegh Larijani, on January 4, 2015, that called the continuation of the house arrests illegal and demanded a fair and public trial for Karroubi and Mousavi.
In the letter Motahari wrote, “You can hold a fair public trial without fear of an imaginary sedition.” Iranian officials have consistently referred to the peaceful protests that followed the disputed 2009 presidential election in Iran as “sedition.” Motahari’s personal website was reportedly blocked a day after it published his letter.
Iranian officials claim that the decision to put these three leaders under house arrest was made by the previous administration’s National Security Council, a political body that lies outside the Judiciary. President Rouhani now serves as the head of the National Security Council, and yet, despite prior pledges concerning “the necessity of ending the house arrest” of these three leaders, he has yet to take any tangible public action towards this end, well into the second year of his term. On February 6, 2015, Iran’s Minister of Justice Mostafa Pourmohammadi stated that the issue of the house arrests is not on the “agenda” of the government, President Rouhani’s cabinet, or the National Security Council.
“Rouhani campaigned on a platform of championing citizens’ rights; there are few greater rights than protection against imprisonment without charge, access to counsel, or any other semblance of due process,” said Ghaemi. “As head of the National Security Council, President Rouhani has the power to release these three leaders and likely wields even more power than the Judiciary on this matter. His lack of attention to these cases calls into question his commitment to this issue.”
The Campaign’s call for the release of the three Green Movement leaders, as well as for the release of the hundreds of political prisoners who remain in Iranian jails, adds to the repeated entreaties of the UN Secretary General and other UN human rights bodies, leading human rights organizations worldwide, prominent Iranian activists, and governments around the globe who have called for the immediate release of these three leaders and all prisoners of conscience in Iran.
“The international community should make it clear to the authorities in Tehran that Iran’s international rehabilitation and reintegration is contingent upon the release of these three leaders and the hundreds of political prisoners languishing in Iranian prisons,” said Gissou Nia, the Campaign’s deputy director.
The Campaign will be highlighting the cases of individual prisoners of conscience, as part of its “Free Them Now” initiative. Show your support by visiting “Free Them Now” and tweeting under the hashtag #FreeThemNow.
Anlässlich des vierten Jahrestages des Hausarrests der iranischen Oppositionsführer Karroubi und Moussavi erklärte der Menschenrechtsbeauftragte der Bundesregierung im Auswärtigen Amt, Christoph Strässer, heute (13.02.):
Seit dem 14.02.11 stehen die iranischen Oppositionsführer Mehdi Karroubi, Mir Hossein Moussavi sowie dessen Ehefrau Zahra Rahnavard unter Hausarrest. Ein Gerichtsverfahren wurde bis heute nicht eröffnet. Der Hausarrest entbehrt somit jeglicher rechtsstaatlichen Grundlage.
Ich fordere die iranische Führung auf, den Hausarrest nach nunmehr vier Jahren endlich aufzuheben.
Iran hat den Internationalen Pakt über bürgerliche und politische Rechte ratifiziert und sich damit verpflichtet, die Rechte all seiner Bürger zu achten und zu schützen. Fortgesetzter willkürlicher Freiheitsentzug ist ein eindeutiger Verstoß hiergegen!
Die beiden iranischen Oppositionspolitiker Mir Hossein Moussavi und Mehdi Karroubi waren 2009 im Präsidentschaftswahlkampf gegen den damaligen Amtsinhaber Ahmadinejad angetreten. Im Zuge der sich nach der Verkündung des Wahlergebnisses formierenden Protestbewegung (“Grüne Bewegung”) wurden sie zu deren Repräsentanten stilisiert. Nachdem ihre Bewegungsfreiheit bereits zuvor erheblich eingeschränkt worden war, wurden sie sowie Moussavis Ehefrau Zahra Rahnavard am 14.02.11 unter Hausarrest gestellt. Bis heute wurde keine formale Anklage durch die iranischen Justizbehörden erhoben, der Hausarrest jedoch aufrechterhalten.
Quelle: Auswärtige Amt
Karroubi’s followers consider him a leader of theGreen Movement, the movement that was born out of opposition to the 2009 presidential elections, in which incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was declared victor.
Fatemeh Karroubi, who answered Al-Monitor’s questions via email, spent a period in detention alongside her husband but was later released. This is her first interview in four years. A former member of parliament herself, she revealed previously unpublicized details of the house arrest and said that while some aspects of her husband’s house arrest have improved slightly (such as access to newspapers and a visit by Iran’s new health minister), Mehdi Karroubi remains steadfast and continues to demand an open trial, something he so far has not been granted.
The full interview, translated from Persian, follows:
Al-Monitor: It seems that before the arrest of Karroubi in his house — in fact, a month before it and during Ramadan, which is holy to Muslims — there had been some attacks on the house of Karroubi. Is that correct?
Karroubi: Yes, during Ramadan they attacked the apartment three nights in a row and not only caused damages, but shouted many obscenities and insults toward us as well. They had encircled the house and did not let anyone enter or exit. When Karroubi and [Green Movement leader Mir-Hossein] Mousavi asked for permission for a demonstration to support the people of Egypt and Tunisia on Feb. 14, 2011, our house was put under siege starting on the 21st. The home phone and my mobile, as well as those of [our sons] Muhammad Taqi and Muhammad Hossein, were disconnected. Karroubi and I were also imprisoned in our own house.
Al-Monitor: But after that Friday prayer sermon, when [Ayatollah] Ahmad Jannati threatened Karroubi and Mousavi with disconnecting their phone and cutting off their connection to the people, rumors of house arrest could be heard.
Karroubi: Jannati only read what was handed to him during that sermon. The plan was to sever the political connections between Karroubi and Mousavi and their followers, but what happened was quite different. The regime did not even follow through on its own word and plan. Now they are not even willing to accept responsibility for the actions that they have undertaken.
Al-Monitor: So, how did the detention of you and Karroubi start? Tell us about the initial days and hours.
Karroubi: Starting at midnight Feb. 15, for five days, about 40-50 [plainclothes officers], under the protection of intelligence operatives, would come to our door and shout insults and damage the property. At the time, the intelligence operatives did not let anyone, including the children, grandchildren and even Karroubi’s elder sister stop by for more than a few minutes. At the same time, intelligence operatives would allow the the thugs do whatever they wanted. One of the worst nights was the early morning of Feb. 21, 2011, when the thugs threw in a percussion grenade. That evening, the operatives attacked the house and the house arrest officially started.
Al-Monitor: How many operatives entered the house?
Karroubi: More than 60.
Al-Monitor: During the time that you spent alongside Karroubi, was there ever an official sentence handed to you from the court?
Karroubi: The warrant to search the house is the only legal paper that has ever been produced. The arrest and detention have taken place against the law and are against the constitution, the criminal code and the Islamic punitive code.
Al-Monitor: Did they change the layout of the house? Did they move the furniture and fittings?
Karroubi: Yes. The operatives, upon entering the house, removed all of our documents, books and other personal items and even took my medicines and those of Karroubi. They even removed the bathtub and the bathroom fan. I am not sure what they were looking for in the house of the former speaker of parliament of the Islamic Republic. Their behavior was very inhumane. I have had several experiences of dealing with the shah’s SAVAK (secret police) before the revolution. The behavior of the [intelligence] operatives on that night was considerably more violent and vicious. They went on searching the house until the morning call to prayer and left only the bed, the furniture and the carpets. They locked all the doors and confined our lives to a corner of the apartment. All windows were covered; the locks were changed and keys were given to the operatives, and we were imprisoned in part of our house, whose contents were carried away. In the first few days, no one checked on us. The trash was left in the kitchen and it stank, the smell covering the whole apartment. The situation was almost unbearable, but they would not open the doors. I could not remove the trash. But after a few days and with the checking of the operatives, the situation improved.
Al-Monitor: In the pictures that were released later, we could see a 12 square meter [129 square foot] room where we were told Karroubi was kept under arrest. Was his bathroom also included in these 12 meters?
Karroubi: That picture is from the 100 days of arrest in the 7th Tir building, in a small apartment with minimum facilities. We lived in an apartment complex, so the attack of the operatives resulted in the loss of our neighbors‘ property. The whole of the building was turned into a large prison, and so our neighbors could not access their own apartments. The operatives were using the apartments in place of their owners. This was obviously illegal and against the religious laws, and initiated a serious protest and ultimatum from Karroubi. After a few months, they agreed to move Karroubi to a building near the 7th Tir Square so the neighbors could access their properties.
Al-Monitor: How involved are the intelligence operatives in the daily life of the prisoners? Do they also enter the house and the rooms, or are they just standing outside the doors to stop people from meeting the prisoners?
Karroubi: After the 7th Tir building, they moved him to a safe house in the Sadr Highway area of Tehran, which lacked basic residential facilities. Karroubi was under arrest in this building until February of last year, deprived of sunlight and fresh air. Just imagine, close to 1,000 days of arrest without access to natural light and fresh air. After last February’s surgery, my husband was moved to our house in Jamaran [northern Tehran], where he now has access to his books. The first floor is occupied by the operatives and the second floor is for me and Karroubi.
Al-Monitor: Access to a telephone, newspapers, television, books and other items — based on the letter of law — is allowed for prisoners. Is this provided to those under house arrest as well?
Karroubi: Provisioning the basic rights of a prisoner has been an important preoccupation of the family from the beginning. Unfortunately, Karroubi was deprived of his basic rights for quite a long time. In fact, this detention does not follow any rules. We have laws in the country based on which we should consider the issue of house arrest and the rights of those detained in this situation. However, house arrest has not been defined in the laws of our country. Inflicting punishment without due process and legal prosecution is itself a criminal act. Until now, however, the regime has refused to follow due process and has imposed detention and captivity without any legal or procedural framework. In this situation, the rights of the prisoners are undetermined and vague and are practically left to the whim of those imposing the detention. So, it very much depends on the individual operatives. In the first three years, accessing many basic rights was not possible, and still has no legal basis. For example, access to newspapers or a telephone connection is not like that of other prisoners. All land lines are disconnected, and only the two nonpolitical newspapers, Ettelaat and Hamshahri, are provided to Karroubi.
Al-Monitor: Do those kept under house arrest have the right to see their families? How do these meetings happen?
Karroubi: The family visits have recently been regulated, and the children come once a week to see him. However, Hossein [Karroubi’s son] is still not allowed to see his father.
Al-Monitor: Do the guards enter into discussions with the prisoner?
Al-Monitor: Do the guards act as messengers from those who have been involved in ordering the house arrest?
Al-Monitor: When did you realize that the order for the arrest and detention of you and Karroubi had been issued by [Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei]?
Karroubi: Well, actually, up to now, no official in the country has accepted the responsibility for this detention. We have heard that the judicial and police forces have placed the responsibility for this illegal act on the leader’s shoulders. Many contradictory things have been said in the past four years that in fact show the confusion among the administrators of the Islamic Republic. We should probably look for the roots of this confusion in the very fact that the detention and imprisonment is illegal and not legally defined. In the opinion of our family, the entirety of the Islamic Republic’s regime is responsible for this illegal act.
Al-Monitor: We hear that the living costs of the prisoners are actually paid by their families. Is this correct?
Karroubi: When he was in the safe house, I paid part of the costs of the detention in the form of rent. The fact was that the intelligence operatives wished to use this trick to justify their unusual actions, communicating to the people and international community that Karroubi was in fact simply kept in his own house. I wrote an open letter to the judiciary explaining and warning about this, but no one wasreally listening.
Al-Monitor: Do you purchase the food and grocery needs of Karroubi’s household?
Al-Monitor: Why did they separate you from Karroubi?
Karroubi: My exit from the internment was due to a need for medical treatment. They then moved Karroubi to a one-bedroom apartment near the 7th Tir Square, where he spent 100 days alongside 10 operatives and without access to fresh air and natural light. In that situation, they told me that I cannot be returned to confinement. I waited until they moved to the safe house, but they still did not allow me to return, and this time they told me that they have no orders to keep me under arrest as well. We had never seen a judicial order anyway, but I kept insisting to return to Karroubi’s side and they kept rejecting it. At the time, they wanted Karroubi to remain in confinement, and they got what they wanted. Unfortunately, the conditions of captivity caused him serious physical harm, and even four different surgeries have not been able to correct the damage. In one situation, for four months no one saw him and even the operatives would only check on him twice a day, and just for a few minutes.
Al-Monitor: How does Karroubi come to learn of current affairs these days?
Karroubi: The official state television is the only channel at Karroubi’s disposal — and of course, that is an amazing lie-broadcasting agency. In the meanwhile, the children during their visits and I during my comings and goings bring the news to him as well.
Al-Monitor: Has there been anyone in the current administration or those close and aligned with it who might have wished to relay a message to Karroubi?
Karroubi: Dr. [Hassan Gazizadeh] Hashemi, the honorable minister of health and medical education, has been the only member of the administration who has visited my husband. He has done this, though, because of his medical specialty, meaning that the visits have been in his capacity as a doctor, not as a minister and administrator. His kindness and attention have nothing to do with the administration.
Al-Monitor: How have the operatives and the guards behaved toward Karroubi in these four years? Has the change of administration resulted in any change in the behavior and dealings of the operatives, whether positive or negative?
Karroubi: The change in administration, after a few months, resulted in a change of intelligence personnel and detention guards. Karroubi never had a problem with these people, anyway, as he considers them simple agents with no blame for following orders. The current guards and personnel are polite and honorable.
Al-Monitor: Karroubi was instrumental in the formation of the Islamic Republic; did he ever foresee such a situation?
Karroubi: Since the beginning of my marriage to Karroubi in 1962, he was involved in political activities. He was arrested nine times during the reign of the former shah of Iran. The revolutionaries remember the role of Karroubi and his father, the late Ayatollah A’shaikh Ahmad Karroubi, in the Islamic Revolution. Unlike those who claim to be the heirs of the revolution these days, we belong to the hard and wintry days of the revolution.
The revolution happened so people could take their destiny in their own hands. It was supposed to make Iran and Iranians proud. What has happened in the past few years in the name of the revolution has been truly lamentable. It was natural for someone like Karroubi, whose life’s work has been this revolution, not to stand for these problems and rise up in favor of reform. Karroubi could not simply rest on his laurels and prioritize his comfort and that of his family, turning a blind eye to the situation and staying quiet. He stepped onto the path of reform with such expectations and beliefs, and he realized that it was not easy, and thus predicted such hard days as well.
Al-Monitor: When was the last meeting between Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Karroubi?
Karroubi: Before the 2009 presidential elections.
Al-Monitor: Recently, Karroubi sent a message to Rouhani, the president, in which he insisted on his human rights. This shows that he is keeping to the same path that he had declared before the 2009 elections, correct?
Karroubi: Karroubi’s preoccupation is the plight of the people, those unknown and under-represented members of society who have dealt with much pressure in recent years. In his message to Rouhani, he urged the president to use his momentum and insist on protecting the rights of the people as stated in the third chapter of the constitution. For Karroubi, the path is the same, and he is standing as firm as before. He has a lot to say, and wants nothing for himself. He has told the operatives several times to move him to Evin Prison so the regime is forced to go through the legal process and put him on trial. It has been five years that the regime, using state media as its own mouthpiece, has refused to listen, has made accusations and spread lies and has prevented us from responding and defending ourselves. However, as you can see, all these smear campaigns have not changed people’s views. The childish and embarrassing words of people like Jannati, who without any trials or due process issues a death sentence, are along the same lines. Karroubi has repeatedly said that he is ready to be prosecuted based on Directive 168 of the constitution, which provides for a public and open trial.
In 2009, Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi campaigned against President Ahmadinejad as reformists. The election ended with Ahmadinejad winning the presidency again and accusations of vote rigging by Ahmadinejad’s friend and Minister of Interior Sadegh Mahsouli. The results were upheld by Iran’s Guardian Council and within days, a nationwide protest was born and later “killed” in a severe crackdown by Supreme Leader Khamenei.
The two continued to campaign for reform but two years later, following their support of the Arab Spring, both were put under house arrest without a trial. Under house arrest, they have less rights and healthcare than even ordinary prisoners and have no access to news, telephone or internet. They are isolated even from their loved ones and have left their homes only for medical treatment.
To Trial or Not To Trial
They remain accused unofficially of sedition, “corrupting the earth” and an “unforgivable sin”. These accusations might not sound like much to a Western court but the punishment for these crimes in Iran is death. That’s why a lot of hardliners, including Khamenei himself, believe thatthe house arrests without a trial is an act of kindness and were Khomeini alive, they would both be dead. The crucial issue is that officially, they have not been accused officially of any crime since they are not to be tried in court.
Although it is widely believed that Mousavi and Karroubi are under arrest because of their accusations of rigged elections, some insiders point to their “seditious” behavior during the Arab Spring of 2011.
Judiciary Chief Sadeq Larijani makes no excuses and claims that not only are the house arrests 100% legal, the crimes of Mousavi and Karroubi “the 2009 Sedition was a move against national interests and 100% against our national security“. Larijani has no qualms about putting the two on trial. In fact he believes that there is enough evidence to find both guilty but they cannot be tried because of a mysterious “decree of national security”. And yet, in true Iranian style, his deputy, Mohseni Ejei announced that “if conditions permit”, both would stand trial.
Khamenei seems personally piqued by the fact that both have not “apologized” but insiders believe that even if an apology was issued, “their repentance would not be accepted”. The main issue they are expected to repent on remains their questioning of the election results, an issue which hurt Iran inn Khamenei’s eyes.
Calls to release Mousavi and Karroubi have echoed around the world since then. Even Rouhani called for their release during his election campaign but nothing is simple in Iran: it seems that releasing the two or putting them on trial is not under the jurisdiction of Rouhani. Once again, only Khamenei can make a definitive move here.
Now, calls for a fair and open trial are being heard from moderates and hardliners alike and their trial could turn into a real test for Khamenei, Rouhani and Iran. But more so, it is a test for Mousavi and Karroubi who have to choose between losing their freedom or losing their lives: either they continue to accept their house arrest and live or they go to trial and most probably face the gallows.
The hospitalization of a detained opposition figure and the death of an imprisoned labor rights activist highlight the problems that prisoners in Iran face in accessing adequate medical care and regular visits, Human Rights Watch said today. On July 2, 2013, security forces took Mir Hossein Mousavi, a 2009 presidential candidate, from house arrest to a Tehran hospital, where doctors treated him for complications related to his blood pressure. Security forces have prevented Mousavi from receiving the regular medical checks doctors had recommended for a serious heart ailment.
Mousavi’s transfer to a hospital came less than two weeks after the sudden death of a 42-year-old trade union activist, Afshin Osanlou, who was serving a five-year sentence at a prison near Tehran. Authorities say he died from a heart attack. Families and associates of other detainees serving time on politically motivated charges have said that authorities have denied them access to medical care or regular family visits, deepening their isolation and increasing fears for their safety and well-being.
„Afshin Osanlou’s untimely death and Mousavi’s hospitalization both underscore the precarious conditions for ailing prisoners in Iran, especially people being held incommunicado,“ said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. „Whatever the precise cause of Osanlou’s death, the shroud of secrecy and the abuses to which Iran’s political prisoners are regularly exposed shows the urgent need for far-reaching prison reform.“ Lies den Rest dieses Beitrags
Hassan Rouhani now faces the hard part. Iran’s president-elect won a decisive and surprising victory because he appealed to three conflicting constituencies— conservatives, reformists exiled from the political system, and Iranians dissatisfied with the status quo. Now his ability to govern will depend on satisfying disparate factions. Each has its own set of expectations—and each is also intent on coming out on top.
Rouhani may be able to deliver results precisely because he is an insider. Since the 1979 revolution, he has served in some of the Islamic Republic’s highest positions. Before his 2013 election, Rouhani was Iran’s national security advisor for 16 years and then head of a government think tank. So he has close ties to Iran’s military and national security establishment. Rouhani has also been a deputy speaker of parliament and a member of the Assembly of Experts ― the only constitutional body with the authority to appoint and dismiss the supreme leader. Among 686 candidates who registered, he was one of only eight allowed to run for the presidency. Lies den Rest dieses Beitrags
Mir Hossein Mousavi and Zahra Rahnavard’s Position on the Upcoming Presidential Elections as Described by their Daughter Zahra
June 10th, 2013 – [Kaleme – Haniyeh Rezaii] In an interview with Kaleme opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi’s daughter Zahra Mousavi denounces the continued pressure and restrictions imposed upon her family, discusses Mir Hossein Mousavi and Zahra Rahnavard’s position on the upcoming presidential elections, while once again expressing concern regarding the physical well being of her parents.
The full content of Zahra Mousavi’s interview with Kaleme is as follows:
When was the last time you heard from your parents? Do you have any update on their current condition?
One of my sisters was recently allowed a very short visit with our parents. If we take this past visit into account, in the past 7 months two of us have been allowed one visitation and the third sister two visitations with our parents. As you can see our visitation rights continue to be restricted and we continue to grapple with the pressure imposed upon us by the security apparatus in Iran. We are also deprived of all phone calls. They won’t even grant us the basic rights afforded to all prisoners under the law. On the rare occasion that we have been granted visitation, it has been impossible to visit with our parents in a peaceful environment given the commotion associated with the unannounced and unexpected visitations, the extreme psychological pressure exerted on us and on our parents, the heavy presence of security officers and the watchful eyes of the security cameras. Given the restricted nature of the visitations we generally have little time for extensive conversations, other than greetings and a brief dialogue about our lives. As a result we don’t have detailed information on their condition and well being. It is difficult to have a real conversation both for them and for us.
In your opinion, how are your parents enduring their house arrest?
Our parents are political figures. Their life together has always been a combination of a normal and loving existence intertwined with their political activities. The ramifications of having a politically active life in countries with similar condition such as ours are apparent to all. As a result, despite the fact that the level of corruption and injustice far exceeds what they could have imagined, our parents were nevertheless always mentally prepared for the potential consequences of their political activism. Though they have always been in great spirits and their faith has only strengthened as a result of the difficulties over the years, their physical condition has however seriously deteriorated and this is one of our greatest concerns. We have endured the pain and anxiety of separation, the lack of news regarding our parents and the complex and cruel nature of the interactions with the security apparatus, but their physical condition is concerning to say the least.
Can you please expand upon this last point? What exact physical ailments are your parents suffering from?
My mother’s blood sugar has increased and the arthritis in her hands and shoulders is much more prominent. She is in pain and yet nothing has been done regarding her medical condition. My father was also supposed to go for a check up with the doctors who preformed his cardiac stent operation in May, but the security agents announced that they will take him to a hospital of their choice. When my father went for his first check up and stress test to this hospital affiliated with the security apparatus, as a result of an apparent collusion between the security agents and the physicians, they did not shut off the stress test machine despite the fact that my father was not feeling well and the stress test was positive. Given the circumstances of his last visit, my father did not feel comfortable putting his life in the hands of the aforementioned physicians and facility and did not agree to continue treatment there. As a result, he has been unable to complete his medical treatment. They are however providing him with the medicine that was prescribed by his former physician. Despite our continued insistence to review his medical files we continue to be deprived of access to his files. Lies den Rest dieses Beitrags
As we approach the eleventh presidential election in the Islamic Republic of Iran, two of the candidates from the previous election remain under house arrest. Ahmadinejad’s main opponents were Mir Hossein Mousavi who was the Prime Minister of Iran for ten years in the 1980s and Mehdi Karroubi who was the speaker of the third and the sixth parliaments. The days of campaigning and the passion and excitement in most cities indicated the high number of votes which the two candidates garnered. Furthermore, most political analysts believe Mousavi was the real victor of the election. It looked like the people who were dissatisfied with Ahmadinejad administration’s policies had hoped to change the president. However, the announced outcome was different; Ahmadinejad’s victory was decisive and there were few votes for Mousavi and Karroubi. Mousavi and Karroubi did not accept the results and called it a fraud, but the Guardian Council, the main body to oversee the elections rejected the protests. Some members of the council had backed Ahmadinejad during the campaign, so the impartiality of the council was under question. Three days after Election Day, the largest demonstration in recent years was held against the election results and nearly three million people with green symbols rallied silently. Their main question was: “Where is my vote?”
This is how the Iranian Green Movement was born; a movement that through peaceful demonstrations and tactics demanded a free and fair election. In his Friday Prayer a week after the election, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei clearly stated his support for Ahmadinejad and threatened the demonstrators with suppression. It was a threat that materialized the next day and the streets in different Iranian cities witnessed the security forces’ crackdown on the people. These demonstrations went on for months and were led by Mousavi and Karroubi through their written statements. In the end, the government managed to control the protests by imprisoning thousands and killing approximately a hundred people.
A year later the “Arab Spring” started. People rebelled against dictatorial governments in Tunisia and Egypt and many believed they had been inspired by the Iranian Green Movement. When the President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt was deposed, in a joint statement, Mousavi and Karroubi asked the ministry of interior for permission to hold a demonstration in solidarity with the people of Egypt and Tunisia. The letter partly read: “We would like to ask for permission to hold a demonstration in solidarity with the movements of the people in Egypt and Tunisia against their oppressive governments. We would like permission to invite the people to rally in accordance to the 27th article of the constitution in support of the uprising of two Muslim populations on Monday February 14th, at 3 p.m. from Imam Hossein square to Azadi Square.” (1)
Although no response was given to the request, many people took to the streets. This movement showed that although it has not had a public display for a while, the Green Movement is like a fire under the ashes, waiting for a spark. The government authorities, who had been taken aback, took desperate measures. The MPs chanted “down with Mousavi and Karroubi” in the parliament. Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, a Guardian Council member and Imam of the Tehran Friday Prayer, asked for the house arrest of Mousavi and Karroubi. He stated during his Friday Prayer: “What the judiciary can do – and I believe they are thinking about doing this – is to totally cut all their connections with the people. The doors of their homes should be shut, entering and exiting their homes should be limited. They should not be able to send or receive messages and their phones and internet access should be disconnected. They should be imprisoned in their own homes.” (2)
By early February 2012, what Ayatollah Jannati had said was done. Mousavi and his wife, Zahra Rahnavard, Karroubi and his wife, Fatemeh Karroubi were put under house arrest. Their contact with society was shut down and only their children were allowed to visit them on special occasions. Eventually, Fatemeh Karroubi was released from house arrest for a while but Karroubi was forced to stay under house arrest alone.
House arrest; a tool for dictators
It might be difficult for dictatorial governments to arrest and try political opposition leaders as they do to others. The political leaders of the opposition to dictators usually have a considerable amount of credit among the people and on the international level and that is what makes it difficult for the dictators to arrest and try them before a court. Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese democracy seeking leader and Peace Nobelist, is the most famous person to spend a long time under house arrest. Prior to this in Iran as well, Ayatollah Montazeri, a religious leader who opposed the government, spent part of his life under house arrest. He was supposed to become the successor to Ayatollah Khomeini as the Supreme Leader but he lost his standing in the regime following his protest about a number of actions by the regime, including the 1988 mass executions of political opposition activists. For years after that, he held his place as a religious leader among the people but in 1997 when he clearly criticized the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, his home was attacked by government forces. Upon a verdict from the Special Court of the Clergy, the entrance to his home was welded shut and only the entrance door to the inner part of his home was left open, and even that was controlled by the IRGC forces who controlled it from a kiosk that was installed there. He did not meet anyone except for his children, grandchildren and siblings for five years. (3)
800 day arrest
It is almost 800 days since the beginning of Mousavi, Karroubi and Rahnavard’s house arrest. No trial has been held to produce a verdict or prosecute any charges. The arrest is ongoing without a warrant from a court. This is an instance of “arbitrary arrest” and a violation of Article 9 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which reads: “No one shall be subject to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile”.
Numerous Iranian and foreign groups have protested the house arrests since their beginning. On BBC Persia, Shirin Ebadi, the human rights attorney and Peace Nobelist, commented on the news of Mousavi and Karroubi’s house arrest: “They have arrested them without due legal process, and sent them to an unknown location which we believe to be Heshmatieh prison. They have been in prison since February 14th. In the beginning, they were detained in their own homes and now are in an undisclosed location and this is an instance of arbitrary arrest.” (4) A while later, it was determined that these leaders had been detained in houses. The White House spokesman mentioned the difference in the Iranian government’s position on the democratic movements and domestic protests in Arab countries and called the actions of Iranian government “hypocritical.” He stated: “It is clear that we consider the arrest of opposition leaders unacceptable and we call for good treatment with them and their release”. (4)
Ayatollah Sanei, a religious leader based in Qom, also released a statement about this issue that partly read: “It is sad and surprising that some people believe that the protests by the political opposition is baseless and a lie; but even with having all the media and advertising power, they have not yet been able to hold a fair public trial where the opposition can defend their ideas and let society judge and see who is right.” (5) The council of National-Religious (another opposition group) activists’ statement also read: “The arrest and detention of these gentlemen is against the 22nd article of the constitution that points out the safety of people’s life, property and home from attacks. Article 33 mentions the ban of forcing people to stay in some location without a legal warrant, article 36 stresses that the punishment must be determined by fair trial, article 37 states one is innocent unless proven guilty and article 39 protects the honor of people.” (6) Lastly, in a statement Shirin Ebadi and six human rights organizations; Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Reporters without Borders, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, International Federation for Human Rights, the Committee for Defense of Human Rights in Iran asked the Iranian authorities to end the “arbitrary” house arrest of Mehdi Karroubi, Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi as well as the harassment and detention of their children immediately. (7)
These days as we approach the eleventh presidential election, half of the candidates from the previous election are under house arrest. The Islamic Republic authorities claim that the election in Iran is one of the most free in the world. But can we really believe that claim?
Two years ago today, the Iranian regime put former presidential candidates and opposition leaders Mehdi Karroubi, Mir Hossein Mousavi, and his wife, women’s rights activist Zahra Rahnavard, under house arrest without being formally charged for any crimes, and their situation remains unchanged. We join the international community in condemning their continued imprisonment and the harassment of their family members, and in calling for their immediate release. We further call on Iranian officials to conduct fair and transparent presidential elections in June that conform to internationally accepted standards and uphold the rights guaranteed under Iran’s own laws and constitution.
The United States remains deeply troubled by the Iranian regime’s latest campaign of fear and intimidation to extinguish dissent, eliminate freedom of expression, and deny the Iranian people their freedoms at the same time that it fails to hold the worst human rights abusers responsible for their actions. We are equally concerned by the ongoing bans on political parties and the imprisonment of political leaders in the lead up to Iran’s presidential elections in June. Officials have tried to limit open political debate with the detention of more than a dozen journalists and the regime has also tried to silence numerous activists and human rights defenders through arrests and intimidation. We repeat our appeal for the immediate release of these individuals and of all prisoners who are being held for their religious or political beliefs.
Source: U.S. State Department.