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Presidential candidate Mirhossein Mousavi (R) and his his wife Zahra Rahnavard cast their ballots during the Iranian presidential election in southern Tehran June 12, 2009.  © 2009 Reuters
(Beirut) – The families of two former opposition presidential candidates in Iran who have been under house arrest since 2011 say that authorities have denied adequate care to the former opposition members despite their deteriorating health, Human Rights Watch said today.

The former candidates, Mehdi Karroubi and Mir Hossein Mousavi, and Zahra Rahnavard, an author and activist who is Mousavi’s wife, have been under house arrest in Tehran since February 2011. Iranian authorities should immediately provide them with unrestricted access to adequate health care.

“Iranian officials have deprived Mousavi, Karroubi, and Rahnavard of their most basic rights for more than six years, all without a judicial order or even the pretense of due process,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Iran’s authorities should stop denying Mousavi and Karroubi the care they need, grant immediate access to a specialist medical facility, and end their house arrest.”

On July 24, 2017, Mohammad Taghi Karroubi, Karroubi’s son, posted on Twitter that his father had been transferred to a hospital in Tehran after suffering an abnormally low heart rate. On July 28, Mohammad Taghi Karroubi confirmed in correspondence with Human Rights Watch that Intelligence Ministry officials had ordered Karroubi’s transfer back to his house the day before, against Karroubi’s doctors’ advice.

On July 28, Karroubi’s family wrote an open letter published in several Persian-language media outlets stating that Karroubi had suffered from a serious heart issue the day after he was moved back to his house. On July 30, Hossein Karroubi, another of Karroubi’s four sons, reported that authorities transferred his father back to a hospital in Tehran, where he is being treated.

Mohammad Taghi Karroubi told BBC Persian that the authorities’ treatment over the last several years has instilled fear among his family that the “Ministry of Intelligence has appointed someone to the case who sees ending these detainees’ lives as his duty.” The family has said they hold President Hassan Rouhani responsible for Karroubi’s wellbeing.

On July 26, the Kalameh, a pro-reform news website, reported that according to Mousavi’s daughters, Zahra and Narges, the former presidential candidate and prime minister is suffering from high blood pressure, dizziness, and chronic kidney problems. On July 27 and 28, Zahra and Narges Mousavi posted on their Twitter accounts that they have not been able to get any information on their father’s medical condition since their visit with him on July 25.

Several members of parliament, including Mahdmoudi Sadegh and Elias Hazari from Tehran, reported that they have tried to visit Karroubi in the hospital but that authorities have denied them permission.

Officials placed the two former presidential candidates and their wives, Zahra Rahnavard and Fatemeh Karroubi, under house arrest on February 14, 2011, in response to the opposition figures’ call for demonstrations in support of popular uprisings across the Middle East. While the authorities have released Fatemeh Karroubi, the other three remain detained. During six-and-a-half years of detention, officials have regularly deprived Mousavi and Karroubi from receiving the regular check-ups doctors had recommended for serious medical conditions.

Iranian officials, including Iran’s judiciary, have failed to provide any legal justification for the opposition figures’ continuing arbitrary detention. President Rouhani promised during his 2013 presidential campaign to lift the former candidates’ house arrest, but has not, and there is little available information about his efforts, if any, to free them.

Ali Motahari, a parliament member from Tehran who has repeatedly protested the house arrest in his speeches, said several times that the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is in favor of continuing the house arrest.

In August 2012, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, a body of five independent experts acting under the UN Human Rights Council, issued an opinion that the detentions are “arbitrary (and thus prohibited),” and recommended that the Iranian government release the detainees immediately and compensate them for their wrongful imprisonment.

Human Rights Watch has repeatedly called on Iran’s authorities, including Rouhani, to push for the release of the opposition figures and give them adequate access to medical care.

“As President Rouhani begins his second term on August 5, he should demonstrate that he takes his promises to his fellow citizens for more rights and legal protections seriously,” Whitson said. “A good place to start would be to free Mehdi Karroubi, Mir Hossein, and Zahra Rahnavard from house arrest and to see that they get the health care they need.”

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