By Golnaz Esfandiari,
The Iranian opposition website "Kaleme," which is close
to opposition leader Mir Hossein Musavi, reported today that Musavi and
reformist cleric Mehdi Karrubi are being held in a Tehran prison. The
development comes ahead of opposition protest planned for March 1. Their wives,
Zahra Rahnavard and Fatemeh Karrubi, were also reportedly jailed.
Opposition leaders Mir Hossein
Musavi (left) and Mehdi Karrubi
The two opposition leaders
had reportedly been under house arrest since calling for a February 14 rally in
support of the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia. The rally, although officially
banned, reportedly attracted tens of thousands of protesters.
In recent days Musavi's and Karrubi's children and neighbors have said that they
seemed to have been moved out of their residences.
"Kaleme," quoting "credible sources," reports that the arrest and transfer to
jail of the opposition leaders and their wives is "certain," but the exact time
of the move was not clear. The website said they are being held in Tehran's
Tehran's Heshmatiyeh jail (google
An unnamed judiciary official was quick
to deny the report in an interview with the hardline Fars news agency that is
said to have ties to the Revolutionary Guard.
"The two are currently in their house. There have only been some limitations on
their contacts with suspicious elements," the official was quoted as saying.
Yet Amir Arjomand, a senior advisor to Musavi, who is currently in France,
confirmed the "Kaleme" report in an interview with Radio Farda.
"It has been more than two weeks that Iranian authorities have put Musavi and
Karrubi in a situation such that no one has any reliable information about their
conditions and health. There have been many speculations. For us, after we
investigated, the report about the transfer of Musavi and Karrubi and their
wives to Heshmateiyeh, is considered credible," he said.
The family of Karrubi was quoted by his website, "Sahamnews," as saying the
denial published by Fars is an attempt "to justify illegal, immoral and
un-Islamic behavior" against the two opposition leaders.
'Sitting On A Volcano'
Musavi and Karrubi have come under increasing pressure for challenging the
disputed reelection of Mahmud Ahmadinejad in June 2009 and for condemning
Earlier today, Iranian State Prosecutor Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei said
authorities have cut all outside contact with Musavi and Karrubi.
"As a first step, their contacts, such as meetings and telephone conversations,
have been restricted," Ejei said. He added that "should circumstances arise,
other measures will be taken." Ejei did not mention where the two are being
Abbas Milani, the director of the Iranian studies program at Stanford
University, told RFE/RL that Iranian officials are not likely to confirm the
news of the imprisonment of the two opposition figures because of their fear of
angry reactions by opposition members.
"[Iranian authorities] know that their regime is facing political turmoil," said
Milani. "They know they are sitting on a volcano that is ready to erupt. They
don't know what might be the spark that would [catalyze] the people."
The opposition movement had earlier announced a rally scheduled for
March 1 in Tehran and other cities on to protest against the house arrest of
Musavi and Karrubi.
A student activist in Tehran told RFE/RL that the reported arrest of the Musavi
and Karrubi, who he described as "very popular," could make opposition members
"more determined" to take to the streets.
Iranian journalist Shahram Rafizadeh believes the opposition Green Movement will
continue to challenge the Iranian establishment regardless of whether Musavi and
Karrubi are under house arrest or imprisoned.
"On February 14, Musavi and Karrubi were prevented from attending the opposition
rally, yet we witnessed that may people participated in the protest," he said.
"The Green Movement will continue to be active and protest without leadership.
It's one of the outstanding traits of the movement."
Milani believes the arrest of the two opposition leaders, if confirmed, could
lead to the "radicalization" of the opposition movement.
"With [Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's] actions and comments, he is
gradually closing all the doors to any reconciliation, any peaceful [solution]
and arbitration between the majority of people who are against the establishment
and the regime itself," said Milani. "Closing these doors is not going to put an
end to the dissatisfaction. It will increase it."
With increasing dissatisfaction, he said, "an explosion" becomes more likely.
Meanwhile, in Washington, White House spokesman Jay Carney called Iran's
reported detention of opposition leaders "unacceptable" and urged that they be
Copyright (c) 2011 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org
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