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MP Says Reform Leaders May Soon Be Freed From House Arrest

Deputy Speaker Ali Motahari speaking at the parliament. Undated

Deputy Parliamentary Speaker Ali Motahari says intelligence and judiciary officials have promised to put an end to the house arrest of reformist leaders Mehdi Karroubi, Mir-Hossein Musavi, and his wife Zahra Rahnavard sometime during the next month.

“If they are not released, we will start to protest,” the conservative MP told reporters February 17, apparently alluding to the possibility of a collective move by one of the conservative factions in parliament.

Karroubi, Musavi, and Rahnavard were the leaders of the Green Movement, a protest movement that challenged the result of Iran’s 2009 presidential election that brought ultraconservative President Mahmud Ahmadinejad to power.

The three have been under house arrest since February 2011. Calls for putting an end to their house arrest have been futile so far, partly because of an on-going dispute between the Rouhani administration and Iran’s hardline-controlled judiciary.

Judicial officials say the order for the house arrest came from the Supreme National Security Council chaired by Rouhani, while Rouhani and the council deny issuing such an order.

Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) quoted Motahari as saying “The officials are planning to put an end to Green Movement leaders’ house arrest before the end of the current [Iranian] year,” by March 20.

He added that MPs were told by the officials “not to speak too much” about the matter to the media.

Earlier, one of the members of a parliamentary committee campaigning to end the house arrests had said: “The government has reached to the conclusion that continuing the house arrest is against Iran’s national interests.”

Last week, the U.S. State Department called for the immediate release of the Green Movement leaders.

Claims of ‘suicide’ not convincing

Responding to a question about the death in custody of Iranian-Canadian environmentalist Kavous Seyed-Emami, Motahari said the parliament has no power to question the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) about the case.

“Parliament can only ask the Intelligence Ministry to provide more information. The IRGC is not answerable to anyone,” Motahari said, adding “They say Emami committed suicide and we do not have strong evidence against their argument.”

The Iranian judiciary has portrayed Emami’s death as a suicide and accused him of espionage.

However, Motahari said he is not convinced by the suicide explanation and that he is looking for more information on Emami’s case. He went on to criticize the IRGC for not responding to questions about the case.

He also criticized Iran’s state TV for accusing Emami and other environmental activists of “espionage” in a program broadcast February 15. The program claimed that cameras installed by environmental activists to monitor wildlife had “filmed Iran’s missile sites.”