TEHRAN (AFP) – Conservative lawmaker Ali Motahari on Sunday called for the release of political prisoners in Iran and questioned the ongoing house arrests of opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi.
A vocal critic of outgoing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Motahari broached the topic in a statement read on the floor of conservative-dominated parliament, less than a week before moderate president-elect Hassan Rowhani takes office on August 3.
"There are now political prisoners jailed only for criticising the government," said Motahari, according to his personal website.
"The judiciary chief (Sadeq Larijani) must release them and pay no heed to pressure from security officials," he said without elaborating.
Iran rounded up hundreds of pro-reform opposition figures, including ex-officials, journalists and activists, as well as thousands of people who took to the streets in protest at the disputed re-election of Ahmadinejad in 2009.
The regime used deadly force to stifle the protests that eventually turned into anti-government demonstrations. Many of those arrested remain in custody, particularly in Tehran's notorious Evin Prison.
Motahari on Sunday called on Rowhani to clarify the fate of Mousavi and Karroubi, who have been kept incommunicado under house arrest since February 2011.
"The fate of Mr Mousavi and Karroubi must be clarified... the least demand is that they be allowed to defend themselves," said Motahari, an ardent supporter of pragmatic ex-president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.
"There is hope that the president-elect will resolve this issue as punishing them and depriving them of their civil rights, without a court order, is unacceptable based on logic and sharia" Islamic law, he added.
The fate of Mousavi and Karroubi has attracted global attention, with Western powers and UN chief Ban Ki-moon urging Tehran to release them and all political prisoners.
Rowhani, a regime insider, won a surprise victory in the Islamic republic's June 14 presidential election, after gaining the support of moderates and marginalised reformists.
A former chief nuclear negotiator, he campaigned on the promise to resolve Iran's decade-long dispute with Western powers over its nuclear ambitions, and also vowed increased media and personal freedoms.