Sunday, 27 February 2011
AFP/2011-02-27 – Iran’s former reformist president Mohammad Khatami has urged the authorities to release opposition leaders Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi from house arrest, his website said on Saturday.
“Why should people like Mr Mousavi and Mr Karroubi, and their wives, who have had a glorious past in the revolution and the Islamic republic, and who are loyal to the revolution and the Islamic republic, be placed under house arrest?” Khatami said according to his Khatami.ir website.
“Such action pushes people who are against the regime and who don’t care for Iran… to manipulate the feelings of our youths.
“I hope that with the start of the Iranian New Year (March 20) we will see the end of the house arrest, the end of restrictions, the release of the prisoners and the creation of a safe and free climate… in which the people’s vote will be decisive,” he told clerics and university professors.
It was the first time Khatami has called for the release of pro-reform opposition leaders Mousavi and Karroubi.
His comments came after the websites of Mousavi and Karroubi, who are steadfastly opposed to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, had posted calls for new protests on Tuesday to demand their release.
Karroubi, Mousavi and their wives are under house arrest and living in complete isolation, their homes under surveillance and cut off from the outside world, according to their websites.
The call to demonstrate was posted on Kaleme.com and Sahamnews.org and issued by the Coordination Council of the Green Path of Hope, an umbrella group backing the two leaders.
“We invite everyone to protest on Tuesday… against the continued restrictions and house arrest imposed on the movement’s leaders,” the group said in a statement posted online.
It said the protests would be held in key squares and streets of Tehran and provincial cities.
The group, which called previous protests on February 14 and February 20, said more demonstrations would be held on March 15 if Mousavi and Karroubi remained under house arrest beyond March 1.
Clashes between demonstrators and security forces killed two people in the February 14 protests. But the February 20 protests in Tehran were quelled by a massive deployment of police.
Former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who had indirectly backed Mousavi’s in the 2009 elections, condemned the February 14 protests, ILNA news agency reported on Saturday.
“The duty of the regime is clear: we must act against individuals and enemy groups who are seeking to weaken the regime,” ILNA quoted Rafsanjani as saying.
The protests, the first to be held since February last year, infuriated the authorities who accused Mousavi and Karroubi of treason, according to opposition websites.
Officials have also branded anyone who supports the two men as “anti-revolutionary.”
Mousavi and Karroubi led a string of protests in Iran after Ahmadinejad’s controversial re-election in June 2009, which they claim was rigged.
Their opposition to Ahmadinejad has shaken the Islamic regime and divided the nation’s elite Shiite clergy.
Khatami, once a pillar of Iran’s clerical regime who served two terms in office between 1997 and 2005, has turned into a vocal critic after the Ahmadinejad’s re-election.