[JURIST] Political activists and politicians in Iran have been arrested following protests of the country's controversial presidential election [BBC backgrounder], human rights groups said Wednesday. According to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran (ICHRI) [advocacy website], former foreign minister and current leader of the Freedom Movement of Iran [official website] Ebrahim Yazdi was arrested [press release] Wednesday in a Tehran hospital. ICHRI also reported the arrests of economist Saeed Laylaz, youth activist Mohammadreza Jalaieepour, Freedom Movement political director Mohammad Tavasoli, and other officials and activists. Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] reported that 17 political activists were arrested [press release] and taken to "unspecified locations" after staging a peaceful protest in a public square in the city of Tabriz. A spokesman for ICHRI addressed the increased repression, saying:
Iranian intelligence and security forces are using the public protests to engage in what appears to be a major purge of reform-oriented individuals whose situations in detention could be life-threatening. The authorities are responsible for the health and safety of these people and should be held accountable.
Calling for Iranian authorities to respect and nurture debate, AI stressed [press release] Thursday that "healthy debate on issues of fundamental importance to people's lives" informs, rather than threatens, policy makers.
On Tuesday, Iran's Guardian Council of the Constitution [official website, in Persian] said that it would conduct a partial recount [JURIST report] of the disputed election results after the country's spiritual leader and highest authority Ayatollah Ali Khamenei [official profile; BBC profile] ordered an investigation on Monday into allegations of voter fraud. Khamenei's order came after protests took place [AP report] throughout the country following last weekend's announcement of a victory by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] over reform candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi [IranTracker profile]. Ahmadinejad, who has been president of Iran since 2005, has been a controversial figure. In April, delegates to the UN Durban Review Conference on Racism [official website] walked out [JURIST report] of a speech [text, PDF] by Ahmadinejad after he described Israel as "totally racist." Last June, a division of the Iranian Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance [official website, in Persian] revoked the license [JURIST report] of Iranian daily newspaper Tehran Emrouz [official website, in Persian] for printing articles that criticized the policies of Ahmadinejad. Allegations of fraud [JURIST report] also surrounded Ahmadinejad's 2005 election victory.