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Large Group Of MPs Protest Restrictions Imposed on Khatami

Mohammad Khatami during the 2009 presidential elections, before he was banned from public appearances.

The Reformist faction in the Iranian parliament has protested “new restrictions” imposed on the Islamic Republic’s former president, Mohammad Khatami, calling it “explicit and obvious” violation of articles of the Islamic Republic’s Constitution.

Meanwhile, 86 MPs have called upon President Hassan Rouhani to step in to prevent the restrictions and report the outcome to the parliament.

However, the spokesman of the judiciary, Gholam-Hossein Mohseni Ejei has insisted that the restrictions are not “new” and are merely the extension of “old” restrictions imposed on the reformist ex-president based on a resolution approved by the Supreme National Security Council Secretariat (SNSCS).

President Rouhani, who also presides over the SNSC, has dismissed the judiciary’s claims as unfounded. His ministers have also insisted that the SNSC has never issued a resolution banning Khatami from attending public ceremonies.

The Reformist faction, Omid (Hope) in the parliament issued a statement on Sunday, October 8, saying that “increasing restrictions on Khatami’s presence at cultural, political and promotional ceremonies” are violation of the Articles 20, 23, 36 and 37 of the Islamic Republic’s Constitution.

“These restrictions”, the faction asserted, “have increased the former president’s popularity”.

Furthermore, in a reminder for President Rouhani, several MPs called upon him, as the head of the Supreme National Security Council, to guard “fundamental rights” and prevent any move that “restricts citizens’ rights”.

The MPs also asked Rouhani to act against the recent conviction of several political activists and report its outcome to the public.

The deputy speaker of parliament, Ali Motahari and former vice president, Mohammad Reza Aref are among the MPs who have signed the parliamentary reminder.

Iran--Ali Motahari in Majlis
Iran--Ali Motahari in Majlis

Ali Motahari, believed to be a centrist and an outspoken defender of the loyal opposition, bitterly blasted the new restrictions imposed on Khatami, saying they were illegal without prior consultation with Khatami or his lawyers.

​“We have a solid constitution and the parliament has also ratified good laws, yet, some councils and entities such as the Special Clerical Court bypass the constitution and the parliament and push the country towards autocracy,” he said.

An opposition website close to Iranian Green Movement, Kalemeh reported on October 5 that “The Special Clerical Court has sent a letter to former president Khatami informing him that, for a period of three months, he is barred from attending any political and promotional ceremonies”.

The letter was signed by the head of the Special Clerical Court, and the runner-up in the May 19 presidential election, Ebrahim Raeisi.

Based on the letter, from now on, 74-year old Khatami is barred from attending assemblies, conferences, seminars, theatres, artistic ceremonies and performances, including, concerts, recitals and dramas. The letter has gone much further, barring the reformist ex-president from attending non-family gatherings, including private meetings with activists.

Khatami is believed to have played a crucial role in Hassan Rouhani’s ascension to the presidency in 2013 and 2017, apparently convincing his second term vice president, the reformist challenger Mohammad Reza Aref to step aside in favor of Rouhani.

Khatami, who served as president from 1997 to 2005, is considered to be the spiritual leader of Iran’s reformists, and remains influential among the youth despite being under a media ban, AP reported.

Responding to a question on the case and its connection with the SNSC, parliament deputy speaker, Masoud Pezeshkian said on Sunday, “They [judiciary] have not presented any paper or text [attributed to the SNSC’s decision on Khatami]. They are scared to present it. They have done it [themselves] but they do not have the guts to write it down, for it will be registered in annals of history and judged”.

President Rouhani, stepping in personally, categorically denied the judiciary’s claims, affirming on Saturday, October 7, “The reason behind the restrictions [against Khatami]” is the fact that “They want to punish somebody” [Khatami] for his impact on the “elections”.

Khatami has been banned from appearing in the media since mass street demonstrations against the government in 2009-2010, but continues to wield a measure of popularity, particularly among women and younger generation.

Three other opposition leaders supported by Khatami, Mir Hossein Mousavi, 76, his wife Zahra Rahnavard, 71, and Mehdi Karroubi, 80, have been under house arrest since 2011 for calling people to participate in street demonstrations in favor of Arab Spring in Egypt and Tunisia, as well as creating anti-ruling system formation, the “Green Movement”, when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was officially re-elected as the president in 2009.