Almost a third of Iran’s 290 MPs have protested the latest hardline ban on the activities of former President Mohammad Khatami, part of ongoing restrictions after mass protests over the disputed 2009 Presidential election.
Last week the judiciary ordered a three-month ban on public appearances and meetings with the reformist Khatami, who led the Government from 1997 to 2005. President Hassan Rouhani said on Saturday that the restrictions are punishment for Khatami’s encouragement of people to vote in the May Presidential ballot.
Yesterday 86 MPs called on Rouhani to prevent the “new restrictions” as an “explicit and obvious” violation of the Constitution. Several visited the President to press their demand, also asking him to act against the recent convictions of several political activists.
Among the signatories of a petition are the Deputy Speaker of Parliament, “maverick” conservative Ali Motahari, and leading reformist Mohammad Reza Aref.
The reformist faction Omid (Hope) issued a statement asserting, “These restrictions have increased the former President’s popularity”.
Judiciary spokesman Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei insisted that the ban on public appearances is simply the extension of “old” restrictions, based on a resolution approved by the Supreme National Security Council.
Rouhani, who resides over the SNSC, has dismissed the claims as unfounded, and his ministers say the SNSC never issued such a resolution.
The Reformist faction, Omid (Hope) in the parliament issued a statement on Sunday, October 8, saying that “increasing restrictions on Khatami’s presence at cultural, political and promotional ceremonies” are violation of the Articles 20, 23, 36 and 37 of the Islamic Republic’s Constitution.
Iranian media are already banned from showing images or printing quotes from Khatami, amid regime fears of the renewal of mass protests after the disputed 2009 Presidential election and the strict house arrests of opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi, Mehdi Karroubi, and Zahra Rahnavard in February 2011.
Hardliners have stepped up their long-running battle with Rouhani over political and social space in the past week, arresting the brother of 1st Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri. In July, Rouhani’s brother and former senior advisor Hossein Fereydoun was detained, and is awaiting trial on $15 million bail.