Iran approves release of protest leaders Mousavi and Karroubi

Iran approves release of protest leaders Mousavi and Karroubi
Iran's top security body has approved the release of opposition figures Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, under house arrest for seven years for leading mass protests in 2009.
3 min read
29 July, 2018
The two opposition leaders were imprisoned for their role in the 2009 protests [Getty]

Iranian opposition figures Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, who have been under house arrest for seven years for allegedly leading mass protests in 2009, have been approved for release by Iran's top security body.

"I have heard that the decision to lift the house arrest was approved by the Supreme National Security Council," said Hossein Karroubi, son of the jailed reformist, according to the Kalameh news website which is close to the family

"This decision will be presented to the (supreme) leader so that this case can be concluded," he said, adding that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei would have ten days to veto the decision. 

There was no official confirmation of the decision, but the reports come at a time when Iran's leaders are keen to unite conservative and reformist factions to face down increasing pressure from the US and a worsening economic crisis.

Mousavi, 76, and Karroubi, 80, were reformist candidates in the controversial election of 2009, which was won by hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. 

They claimed the vote was rigged, triggering months of mass protests, particularly in Tehran. Hundreds of thousands took to the streets in the biggest challenge to the system since the Islamic Revolution of 1979. 

The pair were placed under house arrest without trial in February 2011, along with Mousavi's high-profile wife, 66-year-old Zahra Rahnavard. 

In January, Karroubi published a rare letter accusing Khamenei of violating the constitution, and called on him to order the Revolutionary Guard to loosen its grip on the economy. 

The letter was published on a website affiliated with Karroubi.

Mehdi Karroubi, who has been under house arrest for the past six years, was admitted to Shahid Rajaei hospital due to high blood pressure, less than 24 hours after beginning a hunger strike on Wednesday morning, according to Sahamnews website, which is affiliated to Karroubi's family.

"His health condition deteriorated after the hunger strike and he is now hospitalised," the website reported, noting the detained leader was still refusing to eat.

"At 1am Thursday father was sent to hospital due to the hunger strike. Pray a lot," his son Mohammad also confirmed on Twitter.

Karroubi's wife Fatemeh Karroubi told Sahamnews that his first demand was the removal of intelligence ministry agents inside their home as well as recently-installed security cameras, which she said "has no precedent before or after the (1979 Islamic) revolution in any house arrest".

"Second... in case of continuation of the house arrest, they should arrange a public trial," she said.

Karroubi "does not expect a fair trial" but wants it to be public and would respect the verdict, she added. 

Hossein Karroubi, who himself was imprisoned, said the security council had also agreed to lift restrictions on reformist figurehead Mohammad Khatami, who was Iran's president from 1997 to 2005. 

The media had been banned from showing Khatami's face and strict limits were placed on his movements.

President Hassan Rouhani repeatedly vowed to seek the release of Mousavi and Karroubi - a major plank of his election in 2013 and re-election last year, with their names frequently chanted at his rallies. 

But despite Rouhani chairing the Supreme National Security Council, which is made up of government and military figures appointed by the president and supreme leader, there had been no sign of progress on their release