February 14, 2014 - Updated on January 20, 2016

Two dissident newspaper owners and writer spending 1,100th day under house arrest

Mehdi Karoubi, a dissident theologian, former parliamentary speaker and owner of the closed newspaper Etemad Melli, Mir Hossein Mousavi, the owner of the closed newspaper Kalameh Sabaz, and Mousavi’s wife, the writer Zahra Rahnavard, are spending their 1,100th day in detention today. They were placed under house arrest in February 2011.

“The arbitrary detention of Karoubi, Mousavi and Rahnavard has no legal basis under either Iranian or international law,” Reporters Without Borders said.

“By promoting the reign of the arbitrary and impunity, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei is responsible for their detention, which is a flagrant violation of article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, articles 9 and 11 of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights*, and articles 32 and 39 of Iran’s own constitution**.

“President Hassan Rouhani is partly to blame. He has not kept his promises to release all prisoners of opinion. As guarantor of the constitution’s application, he must put an end to this unacceptable situation.”

Leaders of the wave of protests against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s disputed reelection in June 2009, Karoubi, Mousavi and Rahnavard were arrested on 24 February 2011 after a call for solidarity with the Arab Spring protests. They have been deprived of all their rights for nearly three years.

Karoubi’s son, Taghi Karoubi, told the Kalameh news website on 1 February 2014 that his father was again under house arrest after being held at an unknown location for a short period. “Intelligence ministry officials have moved into the first floor and are controlling all movements inside the house,” he said. “They have also cut off all means of communication – phone, Internet and so on.”

Karoubi was removed to an unknown place of detention in January after undergoing two back operations – a laminectomy and discectomy – at Tehran’s Arad Hospital. Aged 77, he has been hospitalized a total of five times since mid-2013 for various ailments including a heart condition, according to his wife, Fatemeh Karoubi. He underwent an angioplasty on 31 July.

Mousavi, 72, and Rahnavard have also been hospitalized several times in Tehran – in August 2012, September 2013 and most recently October 2013 – for heart problems. Each time they were closely watched by intelligence ministry officials and Revolutionary Guards and were then returned to house arrest.

One of the world’s most repressive countries as regards media freedom, Iran is ranked 173rd out of 180 countries in the 2014 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.

* The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (signed and ratified by Iran on 24 June 1975):

Article 9
1) Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention. No one shall be deprived of his liberty except on such grounds and in accordance with such procedure as are established by law.

2) Anyone who is arrested shall be informed, at the time of arrest, of the reasons for his arrest and shall be promptly informed of any charges against him.

3) Anyone arrested or detained on a criminal charge shall be brought promptly before a judge or other officer authorized by law to exercise judicial power and shall be entitled to trial within a reasonable time or to release. It shall not be the general rule that persons awaiting trial shall be detained in custody, but release may be subject to guarantees to appear for trial, at any other stage of the judicial proceedings, and, should occasion arise, for execution of the judgement.

4) Anyone who is deprived of his liberty by arrest or detention shall be entitled to take proceedings before a court, in order that court may decide without delay on the lawfulness of his detention and order his release if the detention is not lawful.

5) Anyone who has been the victim of unlawful arrest or detention shall have an enforceable right to compensation.

Article 11
No one shall be imprisoned merely on the ground of inability to fulfil a contractual obligation.

** The Islamic Republic of Iran’s 1979 constitution:

Article 32
No person may be arrested except according to and in the manner laid down in the law. If someone is detained, the subject matter of the charge, with reasons (for bringing it), must immediately be communicated and explained in writing to the accused. Within at most 24 hours the file on the case and preliminary documentation must be referred to the competent legal authority. Legal procedures must be initiated as early as possible. Anyone infringing this principle will be punished in accordance with the law.

Article 39
Aspersion of the dignity of and respect due to any person who has been arrested or put in detention, or imprisoned or exiled by command of the law is forbidden in any form, and is liable to punishment.