My colleague Barbara Slavin reports:
Iranian opposition media report that Mehdi Karroubi, the 2009 reformist presidential candidate and former speaker of the Iranian parliament, has had the conditions of his 15-month house arrest lightened so that he can go outside for brief periods and meet with his family.
The report, in Saham News and translated by Radio Zamaneh, suggests both greater confidence by the Iranian government and a perceived need to widen its base in advance of May 23 nuclear talks in Baghdad.
According to the report, Karroubi, 74, has literally been given access to fresh air and allowed to open his windows. He can also “stroll in the building’s parking area and lock his apartment door.” Karroubi was permitted to visit his family at their home this week and the detainee’s wife, Fatemeh, has been given permission to visit him twice a week.
Karroubi and Mir Hossein Mousavi, another reformist and former regime stalwart, both ran against incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009 and challenged his official “victory” as fraudulent. Karroubi was particularly outspoken in charging the regime with torture and rape used to crush a massive protest movement that arose after the elections. Both men were put under house arrest in February 2011 when the regime feared that the “Arab spring” was reigniting protests in Iran.
This March, however, Iran held parliamentary elections that passed without new protests – perhaps in large part because of a massive security presence. The elections, which were largely boycotted by reformists, consolidated support for Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. In the aftermath of April 13-14 nuclear talks in Istanbul, the regime appears to preparing the population for compromise with the United States and its partners on the nuclear issue.