Saturday, November 28, 2009

Iranian Militiamen Try to Intimidate Opposition Figure

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The New York Times

About 60 members of the hard-line Basij militia force demonstrated Thursday outside a house in Qum, Iran, where the opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi was staying, in an effort to intimidate him before a large opposition rally planned for next month, according to officials in Mr. Karroubi’s party. In an action against another opposition leader, the authorities in Tehran confiscated the Nobel Peace Prize medal of Shirin Ebadi, news reports said. The Tagheer Web site, which is affiliated with Mr. Karroubi’s political party, said that around 1 a.m. Basij militiamen gathered around the house where Mr. Karroubi was staying and chanted slogans against him. The demonstration eventually broke up after police officers appeared, the Web site reported. Mr. Karroubi, who had traveled to Qum, the center of Iran’s religious establishment, to meet with senior Shiite clerics, ran against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the June 12 presidential election. He and another candidate, Mir Hussein Moussavi, have remained outspoken critics of the government, which they accuse of election fraud and violence against opposition figures. They and other reformist figures have repeatedly been the targets of attacks and intimidation by hard-liners in recent months. The opposition is planning an antigovernment protest on Dec. 7, National Student Day. Authorities have arrested dozens of student leaders in the past weeks, and they violently cracked down on a previous protest, on Nov. 4. Another prominent reformist figure, Behzad Nabavi, 67, a former deputy speaker of Parliament and a close political ally of Mr. Moussavi, was taken to the hospital from his solitary confinement on Thursday, the opposition Web site Mowjcamp reported.

The Associated Press quoted his lawyer, Saleh Nikbakht, as saying that Mr. Nabavi had been released on bail while undergoing heart treatment. Mr. Nabavi is one of several detainees, including Ahmad Zeidabadi, Abdullah Ramezanzadeh and Feizollah Arab Sorkhi, who have developed medical problems in detention. Their supporters say intense pressure and mistreatment by the authorities have left them in poor health. The Norwegian government and Ms. Ebadi’s lawyer said Thursday that the Iranian authorities had confiscated Ms. Ebadi’s Nobel Peace Prize medal, along with other personal possessions, from her bank safe-deposit box in Tehran sometime in the past month. The Norwegian government, which administers the peace prize, lodged a formal protest, and Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store said in a statement on the ministry’s Web site, “This is the first time a Nobel Peace Prize has been confiscated by national authorities.” Ms. Ebadi’s lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh, told The Associated Press that the medal had been seized on the orders of a judge with the Revolutionary Court, but that she had not yet been allowed to study the court order. Ms. Ebadi, a human rights lawyer who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003, left Iran sometime before the June elections and has been living abroad since then. Her office and supporters back in Iran have been the targets of repeated raids. The Norwegian Foreign Ministry also “expressed grave concern” on Thursday about Ms. Ebadi’s husband, Javad Tavassolian, who it said was arrested in Tehran and “severely beaten” this fall, and whose pension and bank account were frozen, The A.P. reported.