Hopes of freeing Iran’s Green Movement leaders from house arrest before the Iranian new year beginning March 21 have been dashed, deputy parliament speaker Ali Motahari said on March 16.
Earlier, on February 28, he told reporters, “Security officials have promised to end the house arrest of opposition leaders by the end of the current [Iranian] calendar year.”
Motahari, who has become a vocal critic of Iran's harsh treatment of opponents, did not name the “security officials” who made the promise to him, but he insisted he would hold them accountable.
This isn’t the first time Motahari’s “glimmer of hope” for the release of Green Movement leaders has vanished.
The leaders of the Green Movement -- former parliament speaker Mehdi Karroubi, Former Prime Minister Mir Hossein Mousavi, and his wife, Zahra Rahnavard -- have been under house arrest since February 2011.
Mousavi and Karroubi were the main challengers for incumbent Mahmud Ahmadinejad in the 2009 presidential elections. They protested the official result that declared Ahmadinejad the winner, leading to more than five months of demonstrations that left several dead and hundreds imprisoned.
Later, the pair -- along with Zahra Rahnavard and Karroubi’s wife, Fatemeh -- were confined to their houses after they called for street demonstrations in solidarity with the Arab Spring pro-democracy movements in Egypt and Tunisia. Fatemeh Karroubi was later freed, but the trio remained under house arrest.
While visiting Paris in September last year, Motahari told French media, “I see a glimmer of hope for the leaders of the Green Movement who have been under house arrest for more than six years.”
He maintained he was hopeful that the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) would soon vote on lifting the house arrest. He also said he was guessing that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had changed his opinion on the case.
Motahari told the daily Le Monde, “Many of the principalists (conservative hard-liners) who had previously supported the house arrests have reached a new conclusion and believe the continuation of the house arrests no longer serves the interests of the country.”
Referring to a discussion he had with Khamenei two years ago on the fate of the detainees, who are in their 70s and 80s, Motahari said, “The supreme leader was against ending the house arrests, and yet two years later the situation has changed as Mousavi and Karroubi are suffering from health problems.”
Now, once again, almost two months after his last comments, Motahari has admitted the detained leaders would be celebrating another new year under house arrest.
But he affirmed he would continue his efforts to follow up on the case.
One of the main promises President Hassan Rouhani had tabled during his election campaigns in 2013 and 2017 was to lift the house arrests. However, the promise, which was always followed by long cheers from audiences, has not yet been fulfilled.
Khamenei and his conservative allies have repeatedly described the Green Movement as “sedition” and said its leaders deserve harsh punishment.
The Iranian Constitution grants broad powers to the supreme leader, but according to Article 30 no one can be banished from his place of residence, prevented from residing in the place of his choice, or compelled to reside in a specific locality except in cases provided by the law.