The U.S. State Department has condemned the continued house arrests of former Prime Minister Mir Hossein Mousavi and his wife Zahra Rahnavard, and former Majles Speaker Mehdi Karroubi, the leaders of Iran's reformist Green Movement.
The trio have been imprisoned at their residences for eight years now, after leading a massive protest movement in Iran following the disputed presidential election in 2009.
Mousavi and Karroubi were both candidates facing the incumbent, ultraconservative Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009 presidential race.
Barely two hours after the polls closed, officials abruptly announced Ahmadinejad as winner. Crowds immediately poured into the streets in protest. The Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the Islamic Revolution Guards Corp (IRGC) fiercely defended the re-election of the incumbent and violently suppressed the protesters, killing and jailing many of them.
The Department of State condemned the protest leaders' house arrest on Friday, February 15, saying that it was against Iranian laws and the Islamic Republic's international commitments.
"This week marks the eight-year anniversary of the detention of 2009 Iranian presidential election candidates Karroubi and Mousavi. We condemn the continued arbitrary detention of the 2009 election candidates and others being held without fair trial," State Department Deputy Spokesman Robert Palladino wrote in a tweet on February 14.
Palladino said that the continued house arrest of the protest leaders was against the detainees political and citizenship rights that call for at least fair trial.
Mousavi, Rahnavard and Karroubi were put under house arrest on February 14, 2011 without a court ruling while according to the mayor of Tehran at the time, some four million of their supporters held massive demonstrations.
President Hassan Rouhani's critics say he has not tried hard enough to secure the trio's release although this was one of his main promises in two rounds of presidential elections in 2013 and 2017.
Five months ago, the Secretary General of centrist Executives of Construction Party, lashed out at Rouhani charging that "securing the release of the protest leaders was not among Rouhani's priorities."
Nevertheless, Saham News website, which is close to Karroubi, recently said that Rouhani has written a letter to Khamenei, demanding the reformist leaders' release but Khamenei rejected the call.
In recent months, some reports said that some of the limitations imposed on the protest leaders have been lifted. However, their relatives refuted the reports.
In another recent development, a statement by a presidential adviser who had said "not much has remained of the house arrest" elicited reactions on the part of a Judiciary official. Tehran's prosecutor Jafari Dolatabadi said an indictment has been issued for the adviser who made the comment.
In his statement Palladino characterized the current year as "the year of shame" for the Islamic Republic" as hundreds of other Iranians are also in jail for political reasons and demonstrators taking part in last year's nationwide protests still remain imprisoned.
The statement added that in addition to 26 activists who were killed in the course of demonstrations or in prison, at least 7,000 other Iranians have been jailed for taking part in the protests. Elsewhere, the statement added that the regime has suppressed protest demonstrations by farmers, truckers, workers, journalists, teachers, religious minorities, students and conservationists.
"Iranians must be able to live without fear of arbitrary arrests and detention, denial of fair trial or even losing their lives for exercising their basic human rights”, stressed the deputy spokesperson for the State Department.
Palladino's statement marks a clear difference between the attitudes of the Obama and the Trump administrations in terms of defending Iranian activists.
Since 2009, many Iranian reformists have criticized former President Barrack Obama for ignoring Iranian reformists' call for change and instead getting close and giving concessions to the Iranian establishment.