The president has the authority to lift the house arrest of the Green Movement prominent figures, said deputy speaker of Iran’s parliament, Ali Motahari, in a challenge to conservatives.
This was the latest episode in the conflict between more reform minded politicians in the Islamic Republic and hardliners, over the issue of Green Movement opposition leaders under house arrest since 2011.
Motahri, who is known as a conservative on social issues, has become a vocal critic of the hardliners in recent years, sometimes even challenging positions espoused by the Supreme Leader and attacking powerful institutions under his tutelage. In the political line-up, he is now considered a supporter of President Hassan Rouhani.
“The president presides over the Supreme National Security Council and has the authority to take action on changing the decision on the house arrest,” said Motahari in a letter to the head of the judiciary, Ayatollah Sadeq Amoli Larijani.
On May 29, without mentioning Rouhani by name, Larijani criticized the president’s comments on lifting the house arrest and lambasted him: “Who [the hell] are you to lift the house arrest?”
In a tit-for-tat manner, Motaheri addressed Larijani and rebuked him: “This is not a proper way of talking to the president, who is
also in charge of supervising the constitution. First, you should answer, who are you to challenge the president?”
According to the Iran Students News Agency (ISNA), the deputy speaker of the parliament sarcastically addressed Larijani: “As someone who is ‘somebody’ [holding a high-ranking position], what have you done to resolve the house arrest problem?”
Referring to the moral and legal aspects of the house arrest, Motahari demanded Larijani present a clear response.
“Has it been the right decision to punish [the leaders of the Green Movement] by keeping them under house arrest until they pass away, without any public trial in a qualified court?” he said.
In one of his campaign speeches in the city of Kerman last month, Rouhani had responded to his audience’s demands to free the Green Movement leaders.
“I am going to pass on your request and, I will follow your demand by all means,” he promised.
However, he did not elaborate on to whom he would pass the demand.
Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, who challenged and officially lost to Mahmud Ahmadinejad in his re-election bid for the presidency, have been under house arrest since 2011. They protested the outcome of the 2009 election, which triggered an uprising described as the darkest chapter in Iran’s history since the 1979 revolution.
The uprising was brutally suppressed after five months and led to hundreds of arrests and dozens killed.
Mousavi’s wife, Zahra Rahnavard, is also under house arrest without being charged. They have asked to be tried in a public court, but their demands have been ignored so far.
The judiciary authorities, including its spokesman, Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei, have previously maintained that the trio have been under house arrest by a decision of the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC).
“The SNSC has decided to keep the trio under house arrest for the time being, and the resolution still stands,” said Ejei in December 2016.
Motahari also raised the question of the legality of the house arrest without trial and without the detainees having any chance to present their defense.
The deputy speaker of the parliament in his letter asked the judiciary to resolve the problem before it becomes an issue that threatens the whole system.