In 2009, Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi campaigned against President Ahmadinejad as reformists. The election ended with Ahmadinejad winning the presidency again and accusations of vote rigging by Ahmadinejad’s friend and Minister of Interior Sadegh Mahsouli. The results were upheld by Iran’s Guardian Council and within days, a nationwide protest was born and later “killed” in a severe crackdown by Supreme Leader Khamenei.
The two continued to campaign for reform but two years later, following their support of the Arab Spring, both were put under house arrest without a trial. Under house arrest, they have less rights and healthcare than even ordinary prisoners and have no access to news, telephone or internet. They are isolated even from their loved ones and have left their homes only for medical treatment.
To Trial or Not To Trial
They remain accused unofficially of sedition, “corrupting the earth” and an “unforgivable sin”. These accusations might not sound like much to a Western court but the punishment for these crimes in Iran is death. That’s why a lot of hardliners, including Khamenei himself, believe that the house arrests without a trial is an act of kindness and were Khomeini alive, they would both be dead. The crucial issue is that officially, they have not been accused officially of any crime since they are not to be tried in court.
Although it is widely believed that Mousavi and Karroubi are under arrest because of their accusations of rigged elections, some insiders point to their “seditious” behavior during the Arab Spring of 2011.
Judiciary Chief Sadeq Larijani makes no excuses and claims that not only are the house arrests 100% legal, the crimes of Mousavi and Karroubi “the 2009 Sedition was a move against national interests and 100% against our national security“. Larijani has no qualms about putting the two on trial. In fact he believes that there is enough evidence to find both guilty but they cannot be tried because of a mysterious “decree of national security”. And yet, in true Iranian style, his deputy, Mohseni Ejei announced that “if conditions permit”, both would stand trial.
Khamenei seems personally piqued by the fact that both have not “apologized” but insiders believe that even if an apology was issued, “their repentance would not be accepted”. The main issue they are expected to repent on remains their questioning of the election results, an issue which hurt Iran inn Khamenei’s eyes.
Calls to release Mousavi and Karroubi have echoed around the world since then. Even Rouhani called for their release during his election campaign but nothing is simple in Iran: it seems that releasing the two or putting them on trial is not under the jurisdiction of Rouhani. Once again, only Khamenei can make a definitive move here.
Now, calls for a fair and open trial are being heard from moderates and hardliners alike and their trial could turn into a real test for Khamenei, Rouhani and Iran. But more so, it is a test for Mousavi and Karroubi who have to choose between losing their freedom or losing their lives: either they continue to accept their house arrest and live or they go to trial and most probably face the gallows.