Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, should immediately release the three opposition leaders who have spent the last year under illegal house arrest and stop using extrajudicial and inhumane methods to silence political opponents, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iransaid today.
Today, nearly one year since the house arrest began, the Campaign released a multimedia project containing a detailed timeline, “News of a Kidnapping,” accompanied by a short video and a letter-writing campaign calling for the release of former prime minister Mir Hossein Mousavi, former speaker of Parliament Mehdi Karroubi, and prominent political advisor and university chancellor Zahra Rahnavard.
“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.
These house arrests are illegal under both Iranian and international law. Iranian law does not contain any provisions authorizing house arrests. Any detentions must be followed by proper charges and prosecution in a court of law. Authorities have not applied any of these steps in the cases of Rahnavard, Mousavi, and Karroubi.
Moreover, the detainees have not even had access to basic rights normally afforded to prisoners, such as regular visitations, proper health care, or access to lawyers. Since their house arrest, the three leaders have had minimal access to and communications with their immediate families, raising fears for their mental and physical health. For instance, during the first seven months of his confinement, Mehdi Karroubi was allowed access to fresh air only once.
No Iranian official has directly accepted responsibility for the house arrest of these opposition leaders. However, it has become apparent that Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei is ultimately responsible for ordering the arrests and their continuation.
On 28 January 2012, in an interview with the semi-official Fars News Agency, First Deputy Speaker of the Parliament Mohammad Reza Bahonar said that Khamenei was the final decision-maker in ordering the house arrests.
“These continued illegal detentions demonstrate the epic hypocrisy of Iranian leaders,” said Ghaemi. “On the one hand, they want to claim the mantle of Arab uprisings against dictatorships, and on the other hand they are kidnapping opposition leaders and keeping them under house arrest without any due process whatsoever.”
The United Nations General Assembly, in a resolution adopted 21 November 2011, “Express[ed] deep concern at … [t]he continuing and sustained house arrest of leading opposition figures from the 2009 presidential elections.”
Calls for the release of the three leaders have been increasing in Iran. On 25 January 2012, 39 prominent political prisoners published a statement that said, “We call upon all freedom-loving citizens across the globe to create public awareness regarding the upcoming sham and rigged parliamentary elections in February, 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.”
On 26 January 2012, Nobel Peace Laureate Shirin Ebadi supported this call and urged the international community to advocate for the release of the opposition leaders from their house arrest.
The Campaign calls on all international actors with access to the Iranian government to urge the release of Rahnavard, Mousavi, and Karroubi. In particular, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon should call on Iranian authorities to end the unjust and illegal house arrest of the opposition leaders.
Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, two presidential candidates in the disputed June 2009 election, along with Zahra Rahnavard, an outspoken critic and Mousavi’s wife, have been under house arrest since 14 February 2011, when they called for demonstrations in support of the Arab Spring. Fatemeh Karroubi, a social activist and Karroubi’s wife, was also put under house arrest at the time but has since been released due to medical reasons.
During a brief visit by his daughter on 7 September 2011, Mousavi told her that if she wanted to comprehend his condition, she should read Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s News of a Kidnapping, which details the kidnapping of ten notable Colombians by drug kingpin Pablo Escobar. This comparison inspired the title of the Campaign’s timeline.
“When prominent figures from within the establishment are treated in such an extrajudicial and inhumane manner, the fate of regular prisoners of conscience, captive to intelligence and judicial operatives, is many-fold worse,” Ghaemi said.
The Campaign reiterated its call for the immediate release of all prisoners of conscience held unjustly in Iranian prisons solely for their peaceful opinions and beliefs.