Iran intensifies press crackdown ahead of election
Iranian policemen stand guard as supporters of Iranian moderate presidential candidate, Hassan Rowhani, attend a street rally at Vanak square in northern Tehran on June 12 (Behrouz Mehri / AFP)
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Iranian authorities have intensified their crackdown on journalists and political activists ahead of the June 14 elections, to avoid a scenario similar to the violence that marred the 2009 presidential poll.
Dozens of arbitrary arrests and other human rights abuses against dissidents have taken place in the run-up to Friday’s vote, Amnesty International said in a report published Wednesday.
“This latest crackdown appears intended, at least in part, to stifle debate and to deter criticism of the authorities in the lead-up to the election,” Amnesty said, adding that at least five journalists have been detained and three newspapers shut down since March.
The report documents several cases, including the arrest of Khosro Kordpour, editor-in-chief of Mukrian News Agency. When his brother went to the Ministry of Intelligence to seek information, he was also arrested, and both were held in solitary confinement.
Jamileh Karimi, a member the Central Council of the Reformists Coalition in Fars Province, has been in solitary confinement since his arrest in April.
Several other political activists, trade unionists and students have been arrested over the past months, according to Amnesty.
“The surge in recent violations underlines Iran’s continued and brazen flouting of human rights standards through its persecution of political dissidents and betrays the glaring absence of a meaningful human rights discourse in the election campaign,” said Philip Luther, director of Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa Program.
“The escalation in repression is an outrageous attempt by the Iranian authorities to silence critics ahead of the presidential election,” he added.
Dozens of political activists who were arrested following the 2009 vote remain in prison.
Two former presidential candidates, Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, are under house arrest.
The government previously banned Twitter, and is clamping down on the internet, while several presidential and local election candidates have been disqualified.
Human Right Watch, quoting sources close to Karroubi's family, reported that he has been confined to his apartment for more than 20 months, and has been allowed to leave only a few times to receive medical treatment.
The recent arrests are meant to silence opposition voices that could become louder after the elections, said Hassan Hashemian, an expert on Iranian political affairs.
He ruled out a repeat of the 2009 violence because of the silencing of dissident voices, but said if protests break out this time, the government will not survive.
The regime is seeking to “control the situation before the elections to avoid a scenario similar to the post-2009 election violence,” said Iranian journalist and political analyst Ilia Jazayeri.
The recent arrests are akin to pre-emptive strikes, he said, adding: “During the 2009 elections, there was some margin of freedom, enough to prompt a wave of political activity during and after the elections.”
The opposition Green Wave movement released on Wednesday a letter that it said was leaked from the office of the supreme leader, urging the authorities to “be fully prepared to curtail any kind of disturbances or riots in the course of the presidential elections.”
The letter was marked “secret,” and was addressed to several security chiefs, including the armed forces chief of staff.
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