‘Echo our call for justice,’ say families of Green opposition leaders

‘House arrest inhumane and illegal’

The continued house arrest of Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mahdi Karroubi, the leaders of the Green Movement, violate the provisions of international human rights as well as Iran’s own constitution, their families say.

According to websites affiliated with the two, their children issued a joint letter addressed to the Iranian people as well as “justice and freedom seeking people around world” on Tuesday, calling their continuing house arrest as “illegal” and “inhumane.” It comes exactly a week before Iranians take to the street next Tuesday, the first major opposition protest since 14 February 2011.

The statement dismissed claims by some Iranian officials that the decision to impose house arrest on the 2009 presidential candidates was to ensure their own safety. In late December 2011, the dailyEbtekar quoted Hossein Taeb as saying that the house arrest had been enforced at the leaders’ own request. “They are under house arrest not to obstruct their actions, but to prevent people from beating them.

“It was at their own request. Stones were being thrown at them as they travelled to various places … They themselves asked to have increased security,” Taeb alleged.

However, the opposition leaders’ families believe that their loved ones’ captivity is against their will.

Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mahdi Karroubi spearheaded the Green Movement until mid-February 2011, when they were placed under house arrest after calling for protests in solidarity with the Arab Spring. The 14 February demonstrations were marred by the security forces’ violent crackdowns, which left at least two dead. The Coordination Council of the Green Path of Hope, the movement’s highest decision-making body, has called for nationwide opposition demonstrations protesting the worsening economic conditions as well as the continued detention of dissident figures, particularly Mousavi and Karroubi.

“We, the families of our dear ones, say with certainty and explicitly that, contrary to their free will and the law, they’ve been in prison for a year now. With the exception of a few limited, short and controlled phone calls and visitations, they’ve been deprived of any contact with the outside world. They’re deprived of their legal rights. Up till now, not a single official has accepted responsibility for this illegal act. There is no impartial body monitoring their food, health or medication. There are many ambiguities surrounding their security and place of detention and our concerns grow daily.”

The families maintained that their parents’ absence from the public eye would not deter millions of Iranians from pursuing their rights.

They also warned that Iran’s ruling elite had lured Iran to “war and destruction,” urging them to “the path of reason and the interests of the people and the country.”

“We call on our oppressed, suffering and self-sacrificing countrymen, as well as all those who seek justice and freedom, to echo our call for justice to the entire world, in line with our fellow compatriots in the country who seek the formation of true democracy.  Convey our message to the world: ‘Release our beleaguered yet steadfast detainees and all political prisoners and [prisoners of] conscience across Iran. A country and a nation with such dignity and valour does not deserve this level of economic and political hardship, or, God forbid, war’.”

Speaking to the Green Voice of Freedom, former reformist lawmaker Rajab Ali Mazrooei said the imprisonment of Mousavi and Karroubi demonstrated the authorities’ fear of the men’s influence amongst the wider public. “A few seemingly harmless statements by the Green Movement leaders about the upcoming parliamentary elections are enough to infuriate the authorities,” he noted.

“The 14 February protests will offer a new opportunity for Iranians to express their protest against this illegal form of detention,” said Mazrooei, who was once economic advisor to former President Mohammad Khatami.

During a brief encounter with his daughter during the holy month of Ramadan, Mousavi reportedly told his daughters, “If you want to know about my situation in captivity, read Gabriel García Márquez’s News of a Kidnapping.” “Under the status quo, one can’t be hopeful about the upcoming [parliamentary] elections and taking part in them,” he told his daughters.

“The future is bright,” he told them.

When news of the meeting leaked onto green websites, authorities further isolated the opposition couple from the outside world, while queues formed in some bookshops after the book became a rare commodity in a matter of days.

On Friday, Reporters without Borders, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), and the Iranian League for the Defence of Human Rights issued a joint statement urging the international community to take a much firmer stance against Iran’s human rights violations in the talks currently under way with the country’s authorities.

These organisations said Mousavi, Rahnavard (Mousavi’s wife) and Karroubi had been “deprived of all their rights for nearly a year. Their relatives have not been able to visit them for months and are very worried about their state of health.”

“The Islamic Republic must bring this unacceptable state of affairs to an end. Arbitrary arrest and holding political prisoners incommunicado violate international law. Such practices are tantamount to enforced disappearance, yet are widely and frequently used by the authorities.”

The three human rights organisations expressed their backing of the appeal of 39 political prisoners, journalists and intellectuals issued on 25 January, calling upon “all freedom fighting citizens across the globe to create public awareness of the upcoming sham and rigged parliamentary elections in March and to continue to do everything in their power to ensure that the detained leaders of the Green Movement are released in the month of February.”

Members of the Nobel Women’s Initiative, who are also Nobel laureates, recently called for the “unconditional release” of the green leaders, urging “all freedom-loving people and human rights organisations throughout the world not to remain indifferent to the fate of the prisoners of conscience in Iran, in particular the aforementioned individuals, and to employ every means at their disposal to secure their release.”

In an interview with Radio Farda, RFE/RL’s Persian-language service, Reporters without Borders spokesperson Reza Moini described the year-long house arrest as a “crime against humanity.” “Today, the family of Mr Mousavi and Karroubi don’t know exactly where they are being detained, because there’s no record of their imprisonment anywhere.”

The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran demanded that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei “immediately release” the three opposition figures on Wednesday.

“Khamenei bears the ultimate responsibility for these house arrests, which indeed are nothing short of a kidnapping,” said Hadi Ghaemi, the Campaign’s spokesperson. “Khamenei is operating above the law of the land, and the intelligence and judicial apparatus are tools of repression in his hands, operating with impunity and without any regard for the law or the constitution,” he added.

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