Iran’s Judiciary Chief Forbids Election Protests Ahead of May Vote
A little over a month before Iranians head to the polls on May 19, 2017, Judiciary Chief Sadegh Larijani has warned that a repeat of the protests against the disputed result of the 2009 presidential election will not be tolerated.
“This time the judiciary, the police and security forces, the authorities and, most important of all, the people themselves will not allow the 2009 sedition to take shape again,” said the hardline conservative at a meeting with senior judicial officials on April 3. “You can be certain that we will not show tolerance and patience for 10 months like we did that year.”
Hundreds were arrested and dozens were killed while some went missing in 2009 after a violent government crackdown on the widespread peaceful protests. Officials continue to blame the protestors.
Larijani also warned that Western governments, especially the United States, would receive “a very strong slap in the face” if they meddled in the May 19 elections.
The judiciary chief added that all candidates would be strictly vetted.
“In the past, reformists have suggested that the Council of Guardians should approve all candidates on the basis of innocent until proven guilty,” he said. “This is not a new idea and members of the council are well aware of it and they will firmly carry out their legal responsibilities.”
All election candidates must pass a strict vetting process by the council before running. In the February 2016 elections for Parliament and the Assembly of experts, the council disqualified thousands of applicants.
In 2011, former presidential candidates Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, and Zahra Rahnavard, all of whom had encouraged the peaceful protests against the 2009 election’s results, were put under extrajudicial house arrest. The three became leaders of the Green Movement, which arose from the protests.
The elderly opposition leaders have been detained for more than six years without trial. The issue remains a taboo topic while the protests continue to be referred to as the “sedition” by Iranian authorities.
String of Arrests
Since December 2016, security forces have arrested more than 20 reformist journalists and rights activists.
The day before Larijani’s comments, Prosecutor General Mohammad Jafar Montazeri announced on April 6 that some of the 12 Telegram channel admins who had been detained in mid-March would be released, but also warned that attempts to disrupt the election would be dealt with.
“Considering that two important elections are going to be held soon for the presidency and national councils, we will firmly confront those who commit crimes in cyberspace,” said Montazeri, who also heads the Working Group to Determine Criminal Content on the Internet. “We’re not kidding.”
No arresting authority in the country has taken responsibility for the arrests. Demands for accountability by members of Parliament have meanwhile gone unanswered.
The announcement came a day after Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi—appointed by President Hassan Rouhani, who will be running for re-election in May—said the government did not approve of the arrests.
“The government opposes these arrests and believes the matter should be peacefully resolved and the admins of telegram channels should go free,” said Alavi after a cabinet meeting on April 5.
On March 26, Rouhani publicly asked Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli to explain the “suspicious arrests of a number of media activists on the eve of the elections,” and told him to prevent “security violations.”
“It is necessary to guarantee the security of all the people… and prevent unlawful actions by institutions that have no right to interfere in the elections,” he said while addressing his cabinet.
The 22 journalists and activists arrested since December 26 include political activist Hengameh Shahidi, journalists Tahereh Riahi, Zeinab Karimian, Ehsan Mazandarani, Morad Saghafi, Ramin Karimian, Mahsa Rojati, Mona Moafi, Mehrak Karimpour Andalibi, and film producer Saleh Deldam.