Shirin Ebadi

Shirin Ebadi, the Iranian Nobel Peace laureate and head of Iran’s Human Rights Defenders Centre, has added her voice to those who say Saleh Jaleh and Mohammad Mokhtari were killed by government forces during the February 14 protests in Tehran, contradicting government claims that the two students were killed by dissidents.

In an interview with the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, Ebadi says the speed with which state news agencies announced Jaleh’s killers were members of the exiled opposition group People’s Mojahedin Organization — only a few hours after the shooting and with no culprits arrested — indicates that their news coverage was fabricated.

Ebadi cites the statements made by Jaleh’s brother, who was reportedly arrested after he told foreign media that his brother was not a member of the government-supported militia Basij and that the Basij membership card shown on television was a fake.

Saleh Jaleh and Mohammad Mokhtari were shot on the streets of Tehran during the February 14 anti-government protests. The government maintains they were killed by the PMOI, who according to state intelligence were planning an armed confrontation with the Islamic Republic that day. The PMOI has categorically denied that allegation.

The opposition, on the other hand, maintains that the two students were shot by Iranian security forces for participating in the anti-government protests.

On February 14, Iranian protesters took to the streets en masse in response to a rally call by opposition leaders MirHosein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi.

They had applied for a permit to stage peaceful demonstrations in support of the recent Arab uprisings, which the Islamic Republic has publicly supported.

Although the ministry of the interior refused to issue the permit, and the two leaders were under strict house arrest, people surprised the establishment by taking to the streets in large numbers.

Ebadi also challenged the whole idea of requiring a permit to rally: “If the ministry of interior claims that all gatherings need a permit, then why are the illegal gatherings in front of Mousavi and Karroubi’s homes not dealt with, yet every time students gather for demonstrations, they are considered illegal.”

Pro-government forces have reportedly gathered in front of Karroubi’s home night after night, chanting damning slogans and calling for his execution. Two nights ago, they attacked the building by breaking windows and throwing sound grenades inside the residence.