Ali Motahari

A conservative Iranian MP has criticized hardline cleric Ahmad Jannati for recommending the imprisonment of opposition leaders in their homes, saying a legitimate trial is necessary before one can pass judgment and issue punishments.

“The people’s demands for prosecution of the perpetrators of the sedition is more logical and legitimate than what you have proposed,” Khabar-on-line quotes Ali Motahari as saying in a letter to the chairman of the Guardian Council. “All the verdicts that you have issued are subordinate to a prosecution and cannot be executed without processing the charges in a valid court and issuing legal sentences.”

The Iranian establishment refers to the protests that sprang up following the allegedly fraudulent re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009 as sedition.

The government has gradually increased pressure on the two opposition leaders, MirHosein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, the main challengers of Ahmadinejad’s victory in the past year.

That pressure reached an apex on Monday when the two leaders were put under house arrest, following their rally call for a march in support of recent Arab uprisings.

Hundreds of thousands of people responded to the rally call in all major Iranian cities on February 14. The following day, the majority conservative members of parliament called for the prosecution and hanging of the opposition leaders, but the head of the judiciary and later the Guardian Council chief announced that the leaders will be held under strict house arrest and prevented from any outside contact.

Today conservative MP Motahari criticized Jannati for proposing such a course of action, writing that the accused must be found guilty and sentenced by a court before being punished, and without such a process, his civil rights cannot be denied.

Motahari writes that all the “culprits in the sedition, whether it’s those who allege fraud and call for street protests rather than pursing legal channels for their grievances [meaning Mousavi and Karroubi] or those who used the election debates to slander others, compromising the reputation of the government and creating the context for sedition [meaning Ahmadinejad, who accused senior Islamic Republic reformists of fraud and corruption] must be prosecuted at the same time… This is the only way that the roots of sedition will shrivel and die.”

Motahari adds that if this had been done at the very beginning of the election disputes, the matter would not have dragged on and the protests of February 14 would not have even happened.

Two people were killed in Monday’s protests, and the opposition has announced that it is planning another demonstration to commemorate the two vicitims on February 20.