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Iranian opposition leaders in fourth year of house arrest

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Iranian opposition leaders in fourth year of house arrest
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The leaders of Iran’s opposition Green movement — calling for political reform and evolution in society — have been under house arrest without trial for more than a thousand days: Mir Housein Mosavi, Mehdi Karoubi, and Zahra Rahnavard.

We spoke to Karoubi’s son Mohammad Taghi Karoubi, a law professor at the University of Westminster, in London.

Ali Kheradpir, euronews: “Mr Karoubi, your father has been under house arrest since February 2011. The Minister of Justice and the Mayor of Tehran both said last year that this case is in the hands of the National Security Council. Recently, a member of parliament said that the Supreme Leader told him that if the leaders of the Green movement faced judgement in a court, because of their massive crime, the verdict would be tough. Why is the Islamic Republic of Iran so reluctant to be transparent about this case?”

Mohammad Taghi Karoubi: “Since the beginning, the regime’s behaviour toward the leaders of the protest movement has been unclear. Part of that behaviour lay with unofficial, shadowy plainclothes forces under regime control. According to international law, the state is in charge of what these groups do. Their methods included attacking my father at home, setting fire to the door of the house and throwing a percussion grenade inside. The regime had its trusted groups do these jobs — unofficially — while at the same time working to avoid any official confrontation between the state and Green movement leaders. So far, no authority has taken responsibility for the house arrest of these leaders, within the framework of current laws. However, some officials have said indirectly that this case is not under their control — such as the top commander of the police and the head of the judiciary. Also, recently, the Supreme Leader clearly expressed that this specific case of house arrest is in his hands. That was not news to us, but exposing this issue publicly has taken us to a new level.”

euronews: “Your father has insisted that he is ready to appear in any court to answer accusations made against him, but the Supreme Leader has said his crime is massive, even though he said the state has treated Mr Karoubi and two other political figures with kindness so far. Do you think the Supreme Leader has made his decision without bothering with a trial?”

Karoubi: “The constitution applies the principle of the presumption of innocence, until a court passes a verdict on the accused. My father has been aware of conditions in the country. Since the beginning of his house arrest, he has declared several times that he is ready to be judged in an open, public trial — as provided for in article 168 of the constitution — his only condition being that he must be allowed to speak to the people. The regime so far has refused to do this. It has not followed judicial procedure. The Supreme Leader said the Green movement leaders are guilty, and yet the crime must be presented in court. Only then, if a guilty verdict is delivered, may punishment be determined. Yet the Supreme Leader has already imposed punishment. Even now, years later, he believes that the regime has been kind to them. It all shows that the handling of the case has not been left up to the judiciary. It shows the judiciary is not independent where the cases of these leaders are concerned. This is because the leaders of the opposition movement have the power to influence the people of Iran.”

euronews: “Last year, following the presidential election which brought in a more moderate government, people went into the streets happily, and once again we heard the names of the leaders of the Green movement in people’s slogans. What does the regime achieve by maintaining this house arrest?”

Karoubi: “After arresting the Green movement’s leaders, the regime tried to use propaganda, the national media and other facilities to make Iranians think negatively about them. They made many allegations against them while giving them no window to defend themselves; student activists and political activists were in prison. The huge historical mistake of the regime was to try to teach society to be negative about these leaders, through state media propaganda. But the last election showed that this vision did not come about. Today, not only has public sensitivity towards the Green movement leaders increased, but their popularity is growing constantly.”

euronews: “About your father’s house arrest conditions, he has moved from place to place. First, he was held at his own home and then he was transferred to a safe house belonging to the intelligence services. Today, he is back in his own home. What purpose did all that serve? It wasn’t done with Mr Mosavi and Ms Rahnavard.”

Karoubi: “My father was held at home, then after several months he was transferred to one of buildings of the intelligence ministry. Our family think it was to put more pressure on him. He held on for two and a half years in a small apartment, with the most basic facilities, and alone. My mother was released from house arrest but he remained there. As a result of being deprived of sunlight and fresh air, and staying alone, he got ill from asthma and rickets. In the past seven or eight months alone, he has undergone four surgical operations. The regime then understood that this kind of detention means his whole health is destroyed. Eventually, they agreed to return him to his home. His house arrest is continuing there.”

euronews: “When political figures are cut off from contact with society, food is a concern. Who has been allowed to provide your father with food?”

Karoubi: “As I am speaking with you right now, providing his food is in family hands. My mother is allowed to go shopping. But when he was in the intelligence ministry safe house, they provided all foodstuffs. Of course, the costs were handed on to the family. They provided non-cooked foodstuff to my father. For a short time they provided cooked food for him too, because he was alone.”

euronews: “Who is allowed to visit your father?”

Karoubi: “Currently, my brothers, their wives and their children are allowed to visit, once a week. Each visit can be from an hour and a half to two hours. One of my brothers, however, is banned, simply because he used to tell him the daily political news. He has been forbidden to visit for more than 14 months.”

euronews: “Have you ever been in contact with international human rights defence organisations?”

Karoubi: “We tried to inform people about the conditions of my father and Mr Mosavi under house arrest, three and a half years ago. Every human rights organisation’s duty is to expose any event publicly, wherever there is injustice in any part of the world. But we ourselves have not been in contact with international organisations. We have tried to make my father’s case global, and the international institutions should be expected to do their job, too.”