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Iran Parliament Session Decends Into Chaos Over Criticism Of House Arrests

Iranian lawmaker Ali Motahari (in a file photo), who on January 11 reiterated his view that the ongoing house arrest of several opposition leaders violates the constitution.
Iranian lawmaker Ali Motahari (in a file photo), who on January 11 reiterated his view that the ongoing house arrest of several opposition leaders violates the constitution.

"The parliament was...fully against sedition," lawmaker Seyed Mahmud Nabavian said of a January 11 session.

Speaking to the hard-line Fars news agency the following day, Nabavian, a cleric, added that those who were calling for ending the house arrest of Iranian opposition figures seek another "sedition" -- borrowing the term that hard-liners in Iran use to refer to the antigovernment protests of 2009 and the opposition movement that was brutally suppressed.

He was reacting to a Sunday speech by his conservative colleague, Ali Motahari, who in an open session of the parliament blasted the house arrest of Mir Hossein Musavi; Musavi's wife, Zahra Rahnavard; and reformist cleric Mehdi Karrubi.

Those three were put under house arrest on February 2011 after repeatedly challenging the Iranian establishment over the disputed 2009 presidential vote and criticizing human rights abuses.

In his speech, the outspoken Motahari reiterated his view that the ongoing house arrests violate the constitution.

"Continuation of the house arrest of Musavi, Karrubi, and Rahnavard after the end of street disturbance and without judicial verdict is in violation with many principles of the constitution," Motahari said.

Chaos followed. Some lawmakers shouted, "Death to Seditionists," and, "Death to Hypocrites." Others reportedly approached the podium and tried to bring Motahari down and silence him.

According to Iranian news agencies, Motahari resisted and a brawl followed, reportedly after he pushed away two fellow lawmakers.

Finally, the session was adjourned by the parliament's deputy speaker, Mohammad Hassan Aboutorabi-Fard.

Before suspending the session, Aboutorabi-Fard criticized Motahari and said that his comments run against Iran's national interests.

He said the house arrest of opposition leaders is an act of "Islamic mercy."

"We expect you to respect national interests, Islamic laws, and the constitution," Aboutorabi-Fard said as lawmakers were still heard shouting at Motahari.

The hard-line Fars news agency reported on January 12 that more than 50 lawmakers have signed a formal complaint against Motahari that has been submitted to a board that oversees lawmakers.

Motahari was also criticized by the editor of the ultra hard-line daily Kayhan.

Writing in the January 12 issue of Kayhan, Hassan Shariatmadari accused Motahari of supporting the leaders of what he described as "the America-Israeli sedition." He added that they deserve to be executed several times for their alleged "crimes."

Motahari has criticized the house arrest of opposition leaders on many occasions and said that the three should be put on public trial along with former President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, whose reelection led to the 2009 mass street protests.

The conservative parliamentarian is among very few Iranian politicians who dare to openly criticize the establishment.

In a recent letter to the head of Iran's judiciary, Motahari wrote that the house arrest of Musavi, Rahnavard, and Karrubi is unconstitutional.

Judiciary spokesman Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei reacted by saying that some of Motahari's comments were "lies." He warned that Motahari could be prosecuted for making such comments.

-- Golnaz Esfandiari

About This Blog

Persian Letters is a blog that offers a window into Iranian politics and society. Written primarily by Golnaz Esfandiari, Persian Letters brings you under-reported stories, insight and analysis, as well as guest Iranian bloggers -- from clerics, anarchists, feminists, Basij members, to bus drivers.


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