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Raids and harassment of activists continue in last week of Iran’s presidential race

(June 11, 2013) -- The Iran Human Rights Documentation Center (IHRDC) has received confirmation of reports that offices belonging to the Shiraz branches of the campaigns of Hassan Rowhani and Mohammad Reza Aref were raided by plainclothes operatives on Sunday, June 9, 2013.

Akbar Amini leading a protest on February 14, 2011. Amini was arrested shortly after this photo was taken. Photo credit: Reuters

Rowhani and Aref are the two moderate/reformist candidates in the upcoming presidential election in the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) although as of yesterday, Monday, June 10, Aref is reported to have withdrawn from the race. Initial reports indicated that the raids on these local campaign branches were carried out by "rogue forces." 

After one raid against the office of a local committee supporting Rowhani, however, several members of the candidate's campaign staff, including the head of his youth organization, were summoned to the building Pelak 100 in Shiraz, where both the Ministry of Intelligence and National Security (MOIS) and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Intelligence Division have local offices, for questioning. The raids reportedly followed several warnings by the authorities in recent days. 

Events in Shiraz underscore the increasing authoritarianism that has characterized the IRI's actions in the lead up to the presidential vote on June 14, even as political activists from the 2009 post-election protests still face government reprisals for their activities four years ago. In early May, Akbar Amini, a former Green Movement activist and member of the civil society group Saray Ahl Ghalam (House of Writers), was sentenced to five years' imprisonment and prohibited from engaging in political activity, appearing in media, and blogging for an additional five years. Amini's sentence came more than two years after his arrest following a protest on February 14, 2011. Amini has spent much of the time since his arrest in detention in Ward 350 of Evin Prison, which is under the control of the MOIS. 

Informed sources have reported to IHRDC that Akbar Amini was arrested again in Tehran on June 7, 2013. In a similar case Omid Abdolvahhabi, a sociology student and political activist, was also recently detained in Tehran. The whereabouts and charges against both individuals are unknown, and it is reported that Abdolvahhabi’s family is under severe pressure not to reveal anything regarding his case to the outside world. 

Political tensions in the presidential campaign have grown as arrests of activists and other pressures against moderate and reformist political organizations have continued apace. Video footage of a campaign rally for now former candidate Aref in the central city of Yazd shows audience members chanting slogans in support of Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, the former reformist candidates from Iran’s last presidential election in June 2009 who have both been under house arrest since February 2011. A Rowhani campaign event and the funeral of a dissident cleric last week were both attacked by authorities after activists began chanting slogans to the same effect.