Vigilante groups in Tehran have disrupted reformist National Trust Party congress Friday, May 25, to prevent the reinstating of Mehdi Karroubi, as the party’s leader.
Mr. Karroubi has been under house arrest in Tehran since 2011. He was one of the presidential candidates who ran against the incumbent, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the 2009 disputed presidential elections, which led to widespread unrest and the creation of the Green Movement demanding fundamental reforms.
Meanwhile, party leaders have also clashed with each other at the congress, say incoming reports from Tehran.
Leading National Trust Party member Mohammad Javad Haghshenas, has estimated the number of those present at the congress at 1800.
Haghshenas, a member of the party’s political bureau, wrote in a tweet on Friday, “organized vigilante groups disrupted the congress and the election of party leaders remained inconclusive although a majority had voted to reinstate the previous leaders.”
However, Hojjat Nazari, another leading member of the National Trust Party, told reporters that “party members have reinstated Karroubi as the party’s secretary general.”
Nazari wrote on his Twitter: “Following this decision, hooligans who opposed Karoubi tried to change election results. Nevertheless, an Interior Ministry representative at the congress confirmed Karroubi’s election as party leader.”
Prominent party member Esmail Gerami Moghaddam also said “Members voted for amending the party’s charter and reinstating the previous central council members,” adding that “the chairman of the congress announced the end of the session as soon as the vigilantes began to disrupt the meeting,” ILNA reported.
Guest speakers at the congress, including reformist figure Mohamad Reza Aref, and parliament deputy-speaker Ali Motahari demanded an end to Karroubi’s house arrest, reported Etemad Online Website.
While leading party members insist that those who disrupted the meeting “were not party members,” there are reports about a brawl between the members of the National Trust Party.
A video released by some party members shows Rahmatollah Bigdeli, a well-known member of the party fighting with other members.
Bigdeli told reporters that “the party’s charter was violated at the meeting of the congress.”
He said, “non-members had entered the meeting while it was in progress,” at the same time, “some members protested that the congress’s presidium consisted of a group of non-elected members.”
At the party’s previous congress in 2016, party members rejected Karroubi’s resignation, and reinstated him as secretary general.
Karroubi, one of the Green Movement leaders has been under house arrest for seven years, sending out occasional defiant statements critical of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei. His calls for an open trial have been ignored.
The National Trust Party was established by Karroubi and his aides in 2005.