Iranian reformists gathered on Thursday January 15 to prepare for the parliamentary elections announced this week for March 2016. The Coordination Council of the Reformist Front issued a statement calling for guarantees that the elections will be free and fair.

The participants spoke out against the recent heckling in Parliament.

Tehran Member of Parliament Ali Motahari was interrupted by a number of MPs and forced to cut his statement short in Parliament. The conservative factions of Parliament prevented Motahari from reiterating his concern about the house arrest of opposition leaders MirHosein Mousavi, Mehdi Karroubi and Zahra Rahnavard.

A number of participants also called for the release of the opposition leaders at Thursday’s Reformist Convention.

The head of the Expediency Council, Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani, called on the convention to make every effort to enlist maximum participation in the elections through official political and party activity.

Former president and top reformist figure Mohammad Khatami did not attend the convention, instead sending a message of support.

The reformists had not been able to have a convention since the controversial 2009 presidential election, which led to widespread allegations of fraud and mass protests. Reformist candidates from the 2009 election have been under house arrest since 2011.