Thursday, April 21, 2016

The New Yorker : An Iranian Opposition Leader Pushes to Be Put on Trial

In a melancholy yet defiant open letter, from one revolutionary to another, Mehdi Karroubi pleaded over the weekend to be put on trial in Iran. His dissent could no longer be silenced, he wrote in his letter to President Hassan Rouhani, a former colleague, and he declared, “We must stand up against the idea of a regime with one single voice, made so through monopolizing an unaccountable power.”
Karroubi has long been one of the Islamic Republic’s leading politicians. He fits the profile—a cleric who earned his bona fides, in the seventies, in the Shah’s jails. He was arrested nine times. Karroubi’s wife, Fatemeh, has recounted taking their son Taghi to prison when he was six months old so that Karroubi could see him for the first time. After the 1979 revolution, Karroubi served for eight years, in the late eighties and early nineties, as speaker of Iran’s Parliament, and again from 2000 to 2004. He twice ran for President, in 2005 and 2009, passing the rigorous vetting by the twelve-man Guardian Council, which assesses candidates and legislation for compliance with Islam. (By then an adult, Taghi helped manage his father’s campaign.) He lost both times to the hard-liner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, amid accusations of fraud. Karroubi is sixty-eight now; his beard is as snow-white as his turban. He is a passionate speaker, and photographers like to capture the way his thick eyebrows arch, for emphasis, above his rimless glasses.
For the past five years, however, Karroubi has been under house arrest. His offense was daring to challenge the validity of the 2009 election. The official results stated that Ahmadinejad had won with more than sixty per cent of the vote in a four-man race. (The tallies of almost forty million handwritten ballots were announced within only a few hours, and there were more than six hundred complaints of irregularities.) According to the official tally, former Prime Minister Mir-Hossein Mousavi came in second, Karroubi third, and a former Revolutionary Guard commander fourth. Millions took to the streets to complain of voter fraud—the largest public protests since the 1979 revolution. The Green Movement raged on sporadically for more than six months; political tensions lingered long afterward. In 2011, Karroubi and Mousavi were put under house arrest and branded “seditionists.” Neither has ever been formally charged.
“I am not asking you to lift my house arrest, nor do I believe that it is in your power to do so,” Karroubi wrote in his letter to President Rouhani, which was smuggled from his home and verified by his family. Instead, he went on, “I want you to ask the despotic regime to grant me a public trial based on Article 168 of the Constitution, even if the court is constructed the way that the potentates want. With the help of God and my lawyer, we will hear the indictment and we will present our evidence to the public about the fraudulent [2005] Presidential election, the rigging of the [2009] Presidential election and what happened to the children of this country in legal and illegal detention centers. The outcome of this trial will show which side in the [2009] election dispute has turned its back on the revolution.”
Karroubi accused Iran’s pernicious deep state—including the Revolutionary Guards, the paramilitary Basij, and the Intelligence Ministry—of “trampling” on human rights. Government officials had squandered seven hundred billion dollars in revenues, transferred billions to accounts in Dubai and Turkey, and “pushed the country to the edge of a precipice while the people were impoverished and helpless,” he wrote. The Guardian Council had become “a tool” that “defames respectable people and violates people’s rights to ensure that one tendency wins and others are eliminated."

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