News / Middle East

    Former Iran President Urges Release of All Political Prisoners

    Former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami. (Undated photo)
    Former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami. (Undated photo)
    Reuters
    Reformist former president Mohammad Khatami called for all political prisoners in Iran to be freed following a decision to pardon 80 people in an easing of the Islamic Republic's strict security policies.
     
    The pardons were in keeping with moderate President Hassan Rouhani's pledge to loosen a repressive security grip that Iranians say has been prevalent since the 2009 re-election of his hardline conservative predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
     
    In comments published on his official website, Mohammad Khatami, who was president from 1997 to 2005, welcomed the pardons announced on Monday but said they did not go far enough.
     
    “I am happy about this news but I say why this number? I should say all, unless someone has truly committed a crime and has been found guilty in a competent court. Many of them haven't done anything; many of the charges were wrong,” Khatami said.
     
    Given that he is an influential voice among moderates, his call will add to the weight of expectation on Rouhani to push for the release of more political prisoners and two top opposition leaders under house arrest for more than two years.
     
    On Monday, judiciary spokesman Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejei said the 80 pardoned included some arrested over major unrest that erupted after Ahmadinejad's re-election, which opposition leaders say was rigged, a charge the authorities deny.
     
    Without naming them, Khatami appeared also to call on authorities to free two opposition leaders, Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi, who have been under house arrest for over two years over what authorities refer to as “the 2009 sedition.”
     
    “Everyone should make efforts for house arrests to be lifted,” said Khatami, whose reformist constituency helped Rouhani pull off a landslide election victory in June. “Steps should be taken in this direction.”
     
    Earlier this week, Rouhani addressed the U.N. General Assembly for the first time, setting out his vision of a diplomatic thaw between the Islamic Republic and the West, in particular over Tehran's contested nuclear program.
     
    The West suspects Iran is seeking the capability to develop a nuclear weapon, whereas the Islamic Republic says it is enriching uranium solely for civilian energy purposes.
     
    Since Rouhani took office on Aug. 3, the house arrest conditions for Mousavi and Karoubi are reported to have eased through better access to doctors and more family visits.
     
    Last week Iranian authorities freed human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, who was regarded by civic groups as Iran's highest profile political prisoner, and at least 10 other prominent detainees.
     
    In an interview with Reuters, Sotoudeh said she believed Karoubi and Mousavi would be freed soon as well.
     
    As president, Khatami sought to improve social and political freedoms for Iranians but was repeatedly thwarted by hardline conservatives powerful within Iran's complex power structure.
     
    He endorsed Rouhani's candidacy for president a few days before the election in June, bringing with him a large number of voters eager for liberalization.

    You May Like

    Self-doubt, Cultural Barriers Hinder Cambodian Women in Tech

    Longtime Cambodian tech observer Sok Sikieng says that although more women have joined profession in recent years, there remain significant factors hindering women from reaching tech potential

    Trans-Adriatic Pipeline to Boost European Energy Security

    $4.5 billion-pipeline will become operational in 2020 and will deliver gas from Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz II field to southern Italy

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Annual festival showcases the region's harvested agriculture, fine wines and offers opportunities to experience the gentle breeze in a hot air balloon flight

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora