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Concern Growing Over Health Of Iran's Detained Opposition Leaders

  • Golnaz Esfandiari

Opposition leaders Mir Hossein Musavi (left) and Mehdi Karrubi in Qom in December 2009

Opposition leaders Mir Hossein Musavi (left) and Mehdi Karrubi in Qom in December 2009

Concern is growing over the health of Iranian opposition leaders Mir Hossein Musavi and Mehdi Karrubi after opposition sources reported that both men were hospitalized for several hours and underwent medical tests on November 19.

Musavi, his wife -- university professor and women’s rights activist Zahra Rahnavard -- and Karrubi were put under house arrest in February 2011 after their call for a demonstration in support of the Arab Spring uprisings brought opposition supporters out into the streets.

Musavi has reportedly been suffering in recent weeks from chest pains and extreme fluctuations of his blood pressure. In August, Musavi underwent an angiography for a heart condition that he is said to have developed in detention.

Sahamnews, the website of fellow opposition cleric Mehdi Karrubi, reports that Karrubi has recently lost a substantial amount of weight and suffers from loss of appetite, nausea, and dizziness. Last year he allegedly suffered from respiratory complications.

Family members and aides believe that both men's health has deteriorated as a result of their detention.

Needs Constant Care

Musavi’s aide, Amir Arjomand, told RFE/RL that because of his condition the 70-year-old former prime minister must be under constant medical supervision. Yet he claimed that authorities at times have prevented Musavi from receiving treatment, leading to increased worries over his health.

Karrubi’s family has expressed concern over the health of the 75-year-old cleric and issued a statement on November 20 calling on authorities to allow him to be treated by doctors they trust.

"We expect his right to access independent treatment will be officially recognized so that medical follow-up under the supervision of trusted family doctors can take place in one of Tehran's hospitals," the statement said.

Musavi and Rahnavard are being held at their residence in Tehran. Karrubi has been confined to a house in the capital controlled by security forces. According to his son, Taghi, his family is contributing to the rent.

Both opposition figures are banned from contact with the outside world, except for occasional meetings with their children.

Arjomand, Musavi’s aide, said Musavi’s family has been threatened by the authorities and warned not to inform the public about the conditions of their parents.

Standing Firm

Karrubi’s family has also been under pressure. One of the cleric’s sons, Taghi, was recently banned from meeting his father, apparently after informing him about political developments.

Taghi Karrubi told RFE/RL that despite the difficult conditions his father faces, he remains in good spirits and stands firm on his positions.

“[Karrubi] entered on this path well aware of the difficulties and he has remained steadfast on this difficult path,” he says.

Relatives of Musavi say his stances also remain unchanged.

Both men's unwillingness to abandon their reformist platforms -- and their continued popularity -- appear to lie behind authorities' decision to keep them under house arrest.

Arjomand said the authorities should either put Musavi, Rahnavard, and Karrubi on trial or free them.

“[Nearly] four years have passed since the 2009 election," he says, "and we’re nearing another presidential vote. [The authorities] have put three people under arrest for three years for no reason. If they have any reason or proof [of their crimes] they should put them on trial. If [the opposition figures] have lied, stolen, or committed treachery, [the authorities] have had four years to gather evidence. If there is no evidence they should release them.”

The next presidential election is scheduled for June 2013.

Challenged Results, Criticized Rights

Both Musavi and Karrubi stood as presidential candidates in the disputed 2009 vote, which resulted in the reelection of Mahmud Ahmadinejad. They challenged the election results and accused the authorities of massive fraud.

The clerics also criticized human rights abuses that took place during the state crackdown that followed the election.

Hard-liners have previously called for the executions of Musavi and Karrubi, whom they accuse of attempting to topple the Islamic establishment.

Some judiciary officials said following the election that the men would be put on trial. Instead, authorities have chosen isolation.

RFE/RL Radio Farda correspondents Farin Assemi and Hossein Ghavidel contributed to this report
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    Golnaz Esfandiari

    Golnaz Esfandiari is a senior correspondent with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. She can be reached at EsfandiariG@rferl.org

     

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