In a melancholy yet defiant open letter, from one revolutionary to another, Mehdi Karroubi pleaded over the weekend to be put on trial in Iran. His dissent could no longer be silenced, he wrote in his letter to President Hassan Rouhani, a former colleague, and he declared, “We must stand up against the idea of a regime with one single voice, made so through monopolizing an unaccountable power.”
Karroubi has long been one of the Islamic Republic’s leading politicians. He fits the profile—a cleric who earned his bona fides, in the seventies, in the Shah’s jails. He was arrested nine times. Karroubi’s wife, Fatemeh, has recounted taking their son Taghi to prison when he was six months old so that Karroubi could see him for the first time. After the 1979 revolution, Karroubi served for eight years, in the late eighties and early nineties, as speaker of Iran’s Parliament, and again from 2000 to 2004. He twice ran for President, in 2005 and 2009, passing the rigorous vetting by the twelve-man Guardian Council, which assesses candidates and legislation for compliance with Islam. (By then an adult, Taghi helped manage his father’s campaign.) He lost both times to the hard-liner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, amid accusations of fraud. Karroubi is sixty-eight now; his beard is as snow-white as his turban. He is a passionate speaker, and photographers like to capture the way his thick eyebrows arch, for emphasis, above his rimless glasses.
For the past five years, however, Karroubi has been under house arrest. His offense was daring to challenge the validity of the 2009 election. The official results stated that Ahmadinejad had won with more than sixty per cent of the vote in a four-man race. (The tallies of almost forty million handwritten ballots were announced within only a few hours, and there were more than six hundredcomplaints of irregularities.) According to the official tally, former Prime Minister Mir-Hossein Mousavi came in second, Karroubi third, and a former Revolutionary Guard commander fourth. Millions took to the streets to complain of voter fraud—the largest public protests since the 1979 revolution. The Green Movement raged on sporadically for more than six months; political tensions lingered long afterward. In 2011, Karroubi and Mousavi were put under house arrest and branded “seditionists.” Neither has ever been formally charged.
“I am not asking you to lift my house arrest, nor do I believe that it is in your power to do so,” Karroubi wrote in his letter to President Rouhani, which was smuggled from his home and verified by his family. Instead, he went on, “I want you to ask the despotic regime to grant me a public trial based on Article 168 of the Constitution, even if the court is constructed the way that the potentates want. With the help of God and my lawyer, we will hear the indictment and we will present our evidence to the public about the fraudulent  Presidential election, the rigging of the  Presidential election and what happened to the children of this country in legal and illegal detention centers. The outcome of this trial will show which side in the  election dispute has turned its back on the revolution.”
Karroubi accused Iran’s pernicious deep state—including the Revolutionary Guards, the paramilitary Basij, and the Intelligence Ministry—of “trampling” on human rights. Government officials had squandered seven hundred billion dollars in revenues, transferred billions to accounts in Dubai and Turkey, and “pushed the country to the edge of a precipice while the people were impoverished and helpless,” he wrote. The Guardian Council had become “a tool” that “defames respectable people and violates people’s rights to ensure that one tendency wins and others are eliminated.”
Karroubi did not name him, but the implicit target of his scathing criticism was Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, the ultimate authority in Iran. Just as the Shah used thuggery to perpetuate the monarchy, Karroubi wrote, “these days the regime uses thugs every day across the country to attack the homes of religious authorities, political figures who have been critical of the regime, embassies, and artistic and cultural centers in the name of ‘values.’ They violate the sanctuary of mosques for their political ambitions and know no boundaries in their desperate behavior.”
After the “ridiculous” results of the 2009 elections, Karroubi continued, he had opted to stand against the regime. “I stood by the people, aware of the heavy price that must be paid. With the help of God, I will continue to stand by them.”
The letter was posted Sunday on Saham News, the Web site of Karroubi’s Etemad-e Melli, or National Trust Party. Its official newspaper, of the same name, was banned in 2009, after it cited Karroubi’s claim that female protesters in the Green Movement had been raped in detention.
Karroubi has little to personally gain from waging this fight. Mousavi, the other Green Movement leader, was widely believed to have been the main contender in the 2009 election against Ahmadinejad. Yet Karroubi has consistently dared to speak out during the protests and, through his family, since his house arrest.
The reaction from Iran’s hard-liners was swift and harsh. Some suggested that Karroubi was lucky to be under mere house arrest. The hard-line journalist Mohammad Abdollahi predicted that Karroubi would be convicted in any trial. “Karroubi, by rejecting the Islamic mercy [awarded so far], has indeed submitted his death wish,” Abdollahi was quoted as saying, in Jahan News. Mehdi Zarinnam, a journalist for Vatan Emrooz, a conservative paper, added, “If they had executed him in the first place, he wouldn’t have gotten on such a roll.”
At the conclusion of his letter, Karroubi vowed to accept a court verdict “without reserve” and “without asking for the right to appeal, because the world is God’s court and his deputies on this Earth are the people. And there are no better judges than God and the people.” After a half century in politics, Karroubi’s political career is basically back where it began. He is an outlaw in the eyes of the theocracy, just as he was an outlaw during the Shah’s monarchy.
Source: The NEw Yorker