Countdown Begins for Karroubi’s Trial After Deal With Rouhani Government Ends His Hunger Strike
Now that detained political leader Mehdi Karroubi has ended his life-threatening hunger strike, all eyes are on President Hassan Rouhani to see if he will honor Karroubi’s second demand: a public trial.
The 79-year-old cleric agreed to end his hunger strike the day after he began it after Health Minister Hassan Ghazizadeh Hashemi and Deputy Intelligence Minister Mohammad Pourfallah visited him in the hospital and agreed to his first demand: withdraw the security agents who have been monitoring Karroubi from inside his house for more than six years.
“Hashemi and Pourfallah informed father that the security forces had left our house,” tweeted Karroubi’s son, Mohammad Taghi Karroubi, on August 17, 2017. “Hashemi gave personal guarantees, as well as on behalf of the government, to carry out this matter.”
“The hunger strike has ended,” he added. “It has been agreed that the government would do everything it can to realize the second demand for holding a public trial.”
Former presidential candidates Karroubi (79) and Mir Hossein Mousavi (75), and Mousavi’s wife, Zahra Rahnavard (71), have been kept under extrajudicial house arrest since February 2011 for leading the massive protests against the widely disputed 2009 presidential election.
Those peaceful demonstrations, which went on for months and were violently repressed by the state, came to be known as the Green Movement.
Confined to their homes and isolated from the world except from close family members for more than six years, Karroubi, Mousavi and Rahnavard have never been charged or put on trial. According to public comments made by state officials, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei supports their confinement.
News of the hunger strike and Karroubi’s worsening health alarmed reformist politicians, including former President Mohammad Khatami, who called on President Hassan Rouhani to end his reluctance to get involved in resolving the crisis.
“Mr. Rouhani does not have the authority to end the house arrests, but the least he can do is ask his intelligence minister to order agents under his command to leave Mr. Karroubi’s house,” said the reformist leader in a post on Instagram on August 17.
Iranian media is prohibited from printing Khatami’s comments or images of him.
On the same day, the grandson of the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Hassan Khomeini, expressed hope for an end to the prolonged house arrests.
“I am worried about my dear and exalted brother Mr. Karroubi, who was one of the effective figures of the  revolution,” said Khomeini at a gathering of reformist political activists on August 17. “I ask for God’s blessing for his health and wellbeing and hope that efforts to end this issue will bear fruit.”
Growing Calls of Support
Karroubi’s hunger strike, compounded by several recent hospitalizations, have thrust the political leaders’ ordeal back into the public eye in Iran, resulting in a torrent of support from reformist politicians as well as an outspoken conservative. Those calls have been heavily focused on Rouhani, who promised to end the house arrests when he was running for president in 2013.
“Hojatoleslam Karroubi’s hunger strike should be a warning to those who insist on continuing his house arrest. His argument makes sense. He wants to be treated according to the law,” said first deputy Parliament Speaker Ali Motahari on August 17. “He wants a fair public trial and will accept the verdict, whatever it may be. It makes no logical or religious sense for some security and intelligence officials to go on insisting that he should repent in order to go free.”
“Mr. Karroubi claims he has committed no crime and says he has been treated unjustly,” added the conservative MP from Tehran. “If he has committed a great crime and violated the rights of the Iranian nation, why should he be asked to beg for a pardon? Mr. Karroubi is not the kind to bow. It would be best for the authorities to initiate a fair and public trial… Officials must take national and revolutionary interests into consideration. Tomorrow may be too late.”
According to comments by officials made about the trio’s case over the years, Khamenei has demanded that Karroubi, Mousavi and Rahnavard apologize for their role in the protests of 2009.
“We ask the honorable president to immediately convene a meeting of the Supreme National Security Council [SNSC] and make a decision on Mr. Karroubi’s legitimate demands,” said the secretary general of the reformist Islamic Union Party of Iran, Ali Shakouri-Rad, on August 17.
“Our main concern is Mr. Karroubi’s health, as well as the issue of house arrests. Members of our block as well as the Committee to Seek an End to House Arrests are following up on this issue and will continue to do so until it is resolved,” said the spokesman for Parliament’s reformist block, Bahram Parsaei, on August 17.
Nearly 1,600 students from universities throughout Iran have meanwhile written a letter urging Iran’s religious leaders to end the political standoff over the house arrests.
“The majority of the 24 million people who voted for Mr. Rouhani in the last election are a section of the Iranian people who have yet to be forgiven for what happened eight years ago,” said a letter published on August 17, referring to the mass protests of 2009.
“They [Karroubi, Mousavi and Rahnavard] continue to be accused of crimes that have never been proven or rejected in court, and are living under the pressures of censorship,” added the letter. “The truth is that for the sake of the country, the people of Iran have forgiven the injustices against them. Instead, despite limitations, they voted for Rouhani and sent reformists to parliament and national councils.”