By Golnaz Esfandiari, RFE/RL
Entrance to Evin Prison in Tehran
More than 2,000 protesters, reformists, and intellectuals were detained
in the postelection unrest in Iran last June.
The Iranian authorities in recent weeks have
begun to release some of the former officials, activists, and intellectuals
detained in last year's post-election unrest. Those released in recent days
include former Deputy Interior Minister Mostafa Tajzadeh, activist Abdollah
Momeni, and student leader Mehdi Arabshahi.
Those detainees have been released under varying conditions. Tajzadeh is reportedly on prison leave for the Iranian New Year, which is marked on March 21. Reports say Momeni has been given several days of leave on a bail of $800,000 dollars, and Arabshahi was reportedly released on a bail of $200,000 dollars.
The three are among over 2,000 reformist figures, students, human rights advocates and intellectuals detained in the postelection crackdown that followed the disputed June presidential election. Many have since been released, but scores still remain in jail, and some have been tried and sentenced to long jail terms.
A hero's welcome: Former Deputy Interior Minister Mostafa Tajzadeh (center right), on temporary
prison leave, is seen with former President Mohammad Khatami (center left)
Zeidabadi (right) sitting in court
Mirdamadi believes it is likely that outspoken detainees such as Zeidabadi will
be kept in prison for the Iranian New Year as a warning to others. "The release
of prisoners ahead of the New Year is not the result of kindness, tolerance, or
leniency by the establishment toward the opposition," Mirdamadi said.
He adds that especially those who have used tough words against the establishment and the Supreme Leader -- including Zeidabadi, student activist Majid Tavakoli, and refomist journalist Issa Saharkhiz -- are likely to spend the holidays in jail as a warning to others.
Mirdamadi believes Iran could balance the releases with more arrests, especially if next week's festival of fire on March 16 leads to fresh antigovernment street protests.
The International Campaign For Human Rights notes that because of what it calls
the "unreasonably high bail amounts" prisoners and their families have had to
post, most prisoners appear to be hostages of the Iranian judicial system. As
the rights group has noted, some of the bail amounts set are higher than a
prisoner's estimated earnings in 100 years.
And there is still much concern over detainees who could face the death penalty.
So far, two of the detainees put on trial over the postelection unrest have been executed. The two men, Mohammad Reza Ali Zamani and Arash Rahmanipour, were reportedly arrested even before the disputed vote and convicted of "Moharebeh," or waging war against God.
There is now concern over the fate of about a dozen other individuals who are facing the same charge, which carries the death sentence. Among them is 20-year-old student Mohammad Reza Valian, who was arrested following the unrest that broke on the religious holiday of Ashura.
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