The family of Mehdi Karroubi, one of the leaders of Iran's Green Movement who has been under house arrest without being officially charged since February 2011, say that he has been granted opportunities to meet people outside his home, but denied that he has encouraged people to vote in next year's presidential election.
Karroubi was put under house arrest along with Mir-Hossein Mousavi, another reformist voice in Iranian politics, on February 14, 2011 after they called for demonstrations in Iran in the wake of the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt.
According to Karroubi's sons, security authorities have relaxed their restrictions over the past month, allowing him to meet with friends and former associates. Karroubi began to enjoy relaxed restrictions in early 2018, his sons said, which included access to some news channels on satellite TV and occasional meetings with selected political figures, though his meetings were periodically cancelled when Karroubi would make sensitive statements related to politics.
Speaking to the Iranian Labour News Agency (ILNA) on Tuesday, Mohammad-Hossein Karroubi, one of the 82-year-old politician's sons, added that the authorities had relaxed the restrictions on his father's meetings with friends earlier in 2020, but cancelled all meetings when Karroubi made a statement criticizing Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei after the Iranian Revolutionary Guard shot down a Ukrainian passenger plane near Tehran on January 8. In the statement, Mehdi said Khamenei lacked the qualifications required by the Constitution for the leadership of the country, with Mohammad-Hossein later being taken into custody after his father's statement was released.
Esmail Dousti, one of the members of Etemad-e Melli Party who was present in one of Karroubi's rare recent meetings outside his own home, was quoted by Tabnak website on Wednesday as saying that Karroubi had "stressed" that next year's presidential elections must be held with "great splendor" and that Iranian citizens should be enthusiastic participants in the voting process.
With most reformists choosing to boycott the February 2019 parliamentary elections after the hardline election group, the Guardian Council, disqualified most of the election's reformist candidates, Mehdi's encouragement of voting seemingly marked a change in his stance.
On social media, some users have expressed their disillusionment about the idea of fair and free trials in Iran, and reacted very angrily Mehdi's call to vote in the elections. One Twitter user warned others "to be vigilante as reformists are surrendering," adding "[Reformist Leaders] Mir-Hosseien [Mousavi] and Karroubi are surrendering."
However, speaking to Iran Wire on Wednesday, Mehdi's other son Mohammad-Taqi Karroubi refuted Dousti's account of Mehdi's stance about next year's election, calling it "his own interpretation." Mohammad-Taqi stressed that his father's stances will always only be expressed in writing or through family members.
Karroubi, who was the speaker of the parliament from 1989 to 1992 and again from 2000 to 2004 and a founding member and former secretary-general of the Association of Combatant Clerics party, founded his own party, Etemad-e Melli and a newspaper of the same name in 2005.
The moderate cleric ran for presidency twice, in 2005 and 2009 against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, both times alleging that the Revolutionary Guard and its Basij militia force had conspired to bring the hardliner Ahmadinejad to power at any cost under the supervision of Supreme Leader Khamenei's son Mojtaba.