By RFE RL
By Golnaz Esfandiari
(RFE/RL) — The Iranian opposition website “Kaleme,” which is close to opposition leader Mir Hossein Musavi, has reportd that Musavi and reformist cleric Mehdi Karrubi are being held in a Tehran prison. The development comes ahead of opposition protests planned for March 1 in Tehran and other cities to demand the release of the two leaders.
Their wives, Zahra Rahnavard and Fatemeh Karrubi, were also reportedly jailed.
Iran’s Prosecutor-General Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei is quoted as saying that “anyone who acts against the law will be dealt with.”
In Washington, White House spokesman Jay Carney called Iran’s reported detentions “unacceptable” and urged that they be released.
The two opposition leaders had 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 Heshmatiyeh jail.
An unnamed judiciary official was quick to deny the report in an interview with the hard-line Fars news agency that is said to have ties to the Revolutionary Guards.
“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.
However, Amir Arjomand, a senior adviser to Musavi, who is currently in France, confirmed the “Kaleme” report in an interview with RFE/RL’s 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,” he said. “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.”
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 President Mahmud Ahmadinejad in June 2009 and for condemning the brutal postelection crackdown.
Ejei, Iran’s prosecutor-general, 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 held.
Abbas Milani, the director of the Iranian studies program at Stanford University, told RFE/RL that Iranian officials are unlikely to confirm the news of the imprisonment of the two opposition figures.
“[The Iranian authorities] know that their regime is facing political turmoil,” says 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 to protest the house arrest of Musavi and Karrubi.
A student activist in Tehran told RFE/RL that the reported jailings of Musavi and Karrubi, whom 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 [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.