Iranian opposition leader ends hunger strike, wants public trial

This file photo taken on June 12, 2009, shows Iranian presidential candidate Mehdi Karroubi casting his ballot at a polling station in Tehran. (AFP)
Updated 17 August 2017
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Iranian opposition leader ends hunger strike, wants public trial

ANKARA: Mehdi Karroubi, an elderly Iranian opposition leader under house arrest since 2011, was hospitalized on Thursday after starting a hunger strike to support his demand for a public trial, his official website reported.
Opposition leaders Karroubi, Mirhossein Mousavi and his wife Zahra Rahnavard have been confined to their homes for six-and-a-half years after calling for rallies in solidarity with pro-democracy uprisings then shaking some Arab countries.
They have never been put on trial or publicly charged. Both Karroubi, 80, and Mousavi, 75, suffer from ailments partly associated with their age. Karroubi has been hospitalized twice in recent weeks and underwent heart surgery.
Karroubi’s son, Mohammad Taghi Karroubi, confirmed the Sahamnews website report on his Twitter account: “At 1 a.m. Thursday father was sent to hospital due to the hunger strike. Pray a lot.”
Sahamnews quoted the Shiite cleric’s wife, Fatemeh Karroubi, as saying that he would refuse “to eat or drink until his demands are met.”
Karroubi and Mousavi ran in what became a disputed 2009 election that returned hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to power and triggered mass protests ultimately crushed by the elite Revolutionary Guards and its affiliated Basij militia.
Dozens of political activists, lawmakers, journalists and artists have urged pragmatist President Hassan Rouhani to fulfill his campaign promises of getting the opposition leaders freed, but he has been blocked by security and judiciary services that answer only to hard-line Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. “He does not expect a fair trial but wants it to be public and would respect the verdict,” Karroubi’s wife told Sahamnews on Wednesday.
Karroubi, a former Parliament speaker, has also asked for security forces to leave his house, which is under round-the-clock surveillance by the Revolutionary Guards.
“He wants the security guards to leave the premises of his house,” Karroubi’s wife told Sahamnews on Wednesday.
“Such a level of surveillance has never been seen before or after the (1979 Islamic) revolution ... He wants the authorities to announce when they will hold a public trial.”
The Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) on called on Wednesday for the immediate release of “ailing political leaders.”
“Karroubi’s life is in danger and the state, which has detained him without trial, is responsible for whatever happens to him while he is in its custody,” CHRI executive director Hadi Ghaemi said.


Jumblatt expresses concern over torture of Syrian refugees

Syrian children are pictured at a refugee camp in the village of Mhammara in the northern Lebanese Akkar region on March 9, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 19 March 2019
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Jumblatt expresses concern over torture of Syrian refugees

  • UN official stresses ‘urgent need to ensure’ their ‘safe, voluntary and dignified return’
  • Some 215,000 Syrian students are currently enrolled in Lebanon's schools 

BEIRUT: Lebanese Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt has expressed concern about reports that Syrian refugees returning to their country from Lebanon face torture and murder.

This coincides with a debate in Lebanon about whether Syrian refugees should return without waiting for a political solution to the conflict in their country. 

UN Special Coordinator Jan Kubis stressed after meeting with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Monday the “urgent need to ensure the safe, voluntary and dignified return of Syrian refugees home, according to international humanitarian norms.” 

Kubis added: “The UN and the humanitarian community will continue to facilitate these returns as much as possible. Another very important message was also to support the host communities here in Lebanon.”

Mireille Girard, representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), on Monday said: “The reconstruction process in Syria may not be enough to attract refugees to return. We are working to identify the reasons that will help them to return.”

She added: “The arrival of aid to the refugees is an element of trust that helps them to return. Their dignity and peaceful living must be ensured.”

Social Affairs Minister Richard Kouyoumdjian said the Lebanese General Security “issued lists containing the names of refugees wishing to return to their homes, but the Syrian regime accepted only about 20 percent of them.”

He added: “The solution is to call on the international community to put pressure on Russia, so that Moscow can exert pressure on (Syrian President) Bashar Assad’s regime to show goodwill and invite Syrian refugees to return to their land without conditions, procedures, obstacles and laws that steal property and land from them.”

Lebanese Education Minister Akram Chehayeb said: “The problem is not reconstruction and infrastructure, nor the economic and social situation. The main obstacle is the climate of fear and injustice in Syria.”

He added: “There are 215,000 Syrian students enrolled in public education in Lebanon, 60,000 in private education, and there are informal education programs for those who have not yet attended school to accommodate all children under the age of 18.” 

Chehayeb said: “As long as the displacement crisis continues, and as long as the (Assad) regime’s decision to prevent the (refugees’) return stands … work must continue to absorb the children of displaced Syrians who are outside education to protect Lebanon today and Syria in the future.”