Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei [official website; BBC profile] on Wednesday pardoned or commuted the sentences of 81 protesters arrested following the disputed 2009 presidential election [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. The pardons were made upon the request [FNA report] of the head of the Supreme Judicial System of Iran [GlobaLex backgrounder], Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani [official website, in Farsi], who described the pardoned protesters as repentant. They were announced on the same day that defeated presidential candidates Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karrubi [BBC profiles] applied for government permission [Bloomberg report] to hold demonstrations marking the one-year anniversary of the presidential elections. Pardons are common occurrences on national religious observances in Iran, and Wednesday marked the birth of Fatima [Iranica backgrounder], the daughter of the Prophet Muhammad, a revered figure in Shi'a Muslim [Oxford backgrounders] tradition.
The Iranian government arrested hundreds in a crackdown on anti-government activity in the wake of protests over the re-election of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] last June, drawing criticism from international human rights groups and advocacy organizations. A Tehran Revolutionary Court [official website, in Persian] in April sentenced [JURIST report] three prominent progressive activists to six years in prison in connection with protests. The men were high-ranking officials of the Islamic Iran Participation Front [party website, in Farsi], a pro-democracy reformist political party that supported opposition leader Mousavi in the disputed election. Iranian authorities jailed prominent Iranian journalist Mohammad Nourizad and reform movement leader Hossein Marashi [JURIST reports] on similar charges in April and March, respectively. Also in March, an Iranian appeals court upheld [JURIST report] the death sentence of 20-year-old student Mohammad Amin Valian, who took part in anti-government protests in December. In February, the US and EU jointly issued a statement condemning [JURIST report] Iran's action against protesters and political dissenters.