Iran Judiciary Refuses to Release More Political Prisoners

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In a press conference yesterday, the Iranian judiciary’s spokesperson, Mohsen Ejei, announced that more political prisoners would not be released on the upcoming religious holidays and said that former President Mohammad Khatami’s travel ban is still in place.

Based on statements by the intelligence and justice ministers, Iranian media had expected the release of some high profile political prisoners, particularly those arrested after the 2009 election protests, especially 2009 presidential candidates Mehdi Karroubi, Mir Hussein Moussavi and his wife, Zahra Rahnavard, who have been under house arrest without charge since February 2011. Ejei, however, denied these claims.

When asked about the speculation over the release of Mousavi and Karroubi, Ejei said, “This speculation is not right, and no specific event has taken place in this field.” He added, “With prisoners, on various occasions we have pardons, and since the security and sedition defendants have received a pardon for Eid Ghorban and Eid Ghadir, we have no pardons specifically for this.” He continued, “Of course, for other prisoners we will have pardons, but we do not have security pardons.” Ejei used the term “security” in this context to refer to “political” defendants.

Ejei also requested that the media not “publish articles that would spread rumors in society.”

On Oct. 10, Justice Minister Mostafa Pourmohammadi said that on Eid Ghadir (Oct. 24), various political prisoners will be freed and that “The pardoning of security prisoners and other prisoners will be an Eid gift by the administration to the people.” He added that Karrobi and Mousavi’s continued house arrest is the decision of the Supreme National Security Council headed by Ali Shamkhani, although he added that that has always been the case.

On Sept. 25, Intelligence Minister Mohammad Alavi also said that more political prisoners would be released on Eid Ghadir and to expect more mass releases of political prisoners. When asked specifically about the fate of Karroubi and Mousavi, Alavi said, “I am discussing this on the whole,” and left open the possibility of discussing the details at a future date.

At the press conference, Ejei was asked whether, since the media was informed that the case of Karroubi and Mousavi is now under the control of the Supreme National Security Council, reporters should refer to them or the judiciary when inquiring about the case. Ejei said, “I am at your service and whenever you have a question, ask.”

He continued, “In the 2009 elections, an act of oppression took place against the people and the country. Of the individuals who had a role in this oppression, some have left the country. If they come back, certainly they will be pursued. And if some are here and they do not repent and repay the damages, naturally, no special action [pardon] will take place.”

Ejei added, “As far as I know, nothing has happened, and the case has not been referred to anywhere.”

Some believe the contradictory statements from Iranian officials have to do with a behind-the-scenes power struggle between the administration and the judiciary in regard to the case of political prisoners. The freedom of political prisoners was a campaign promise by President Hassan Rouhani. However, the judiciary in Iran is typically known to be closer to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Also, of claims by Khatami that he has not been allowed to leave the country since the 2009 elections, Ejei said, “The people who committed oppression in the 2009 elections, such as the person mentioned, no special event has taken place recently, and this situation that was presented is from a previous stage, and whatever was presented against him previously is still there.”