Political dissident and 2009 presidential candidate Mehdi Karroubi, who has been under extrajudicial house arrest since February 2011, is suffering from an alarmingly low level of vitamin D and osteoporosis, according to pathology laboratory test results the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran has obtained. Considering his unfavorable health conditions, continuing his detention will have serious deleterious effects on the 76-year-old dissident.
The Campaign calls on President Hassan Rouhani, as the head of the National Security Council and the official in charge of the cases of the three leading dissidents under house arrest—Mehdi Karroubi, Mir Hossein Mousavi, and Zahra Rahnavard—to immediately provide the conditions necessary for their release.
In the lab results, obtained and verified by the Campaign, Karroubi’s vitamin D level is 13 nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml), considered medically insufficient. Normally, the body synthesizes vitamin D through direct exposure to sunlight. Vitamin D is necessary for overall health, and particularly for bone health; vitamin D deficiency can lead to osteoporosis, which all three of the critics under house arrest are suffering from. Normal levels for vitamin D are between 30 and 70 ng/ml, and vitamin D levels under 30 ng/ml are considered medically deficient and pose a serious health threat.
On October 19, Saham News, a website close to Mehdi Karroubi, published a letter by Fatemeh Karroubi, Mehdi Karroubi’s wife, addressed to President Rouhani. “Despite claims by the regime, Ayatollah Karroubi is under house arrest at a location without access to sunlight and fresh air, and his physical conditions ‘have been seriously damaged as a result of deprivation of sunlight and fresh air,’ according to the physician trusted by the security apparatus,” wrote Fatemeh Karroubi. “I don’t wish to reveal the atrocities and illegitimate and illegal conduct of state forces over the past four years, but how can I forget what the ruling gentlemen did in the name of protecting and saving the regime over these years?” she added.
Mehdi Karroubi’s son Taghi Karroubi spoke to the Campaign about his father’s health. “My father’s physical health is very critical due to confinement in a closed space for nearly 1,000 days without proper access to sunlight and fresh air. Because of the lack of sunlight his bones are softening, and the lack of fresh air is adversely impacting his digestive system and his heart. It has been such that over the past six months security forces have taken him three times for treatment in two different hospitals in Tehran. Both his physician trusted by the family as well as medical doctors associated with the Intelligence Ministry have confirmed that Mr. Karroubi must have access to proper sunlight and fresh air daily. Unfortunately, due to his confinement in a ‘safe house,’ this very basic right is denied to him,” Taghi Karroubi said.
“Continuing the house arrest effectively means that the Iranian authorities have decided to allow these political dissidents to slowly die in custody,” said Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the Campaign. “In order to end this trend, Mehdi Karroubi, Mir Hossein Mousavi, and Zahra Rahnavard must be released as soon as possible. House arrests are symbols of the state organizations’ extrajudicial conduct and violations of the rights of citizens, and mirror the conditions of the human rights of political and civil critics.”
Karroubi’s son also told the Campaign, “It appears the state still wants to keep him under confinement and illegal house arrest, even though government officials, especially President Rouhani, are trying to put an end to this illegal situation. Since the responsibility for his confinement rests with the Intelligence Ministry and, in contrast to the previous one Mr. Moslehi, the current Minister of Intelligence sees himself bound by law and religious edicts, it is the responsibility of the current government to immediately move my father to his own home even if his house arrest is to continue. This would be in accordance with the historical pattern of house arrests. That he be at least in his own home under arrest.”
A source close to Mehdi Karroubi’s family told the Campaign that he lives in an apartment where all the windows are painted and therefore he does not see natural daylight. Moreover, during the hours when he is allowed to have “fresh air breaks,” he is taken to the building’s parking structure, which also does not have access to natural daylight. Another source told the Campaign that in addition to these tests, bone density tests on Mehdi Karroubi, Mir Hossein Mousavi, and Zahra Rahnavard have indicated that all three suffer from osteoporosis, and in the event that they should fall, they could easily sustain broken bones.
Mehdi Karroubi, Mir Hossein Mousavi, and Zahra Rahnavard are political critics who have been under extrajudicial house arrest since February 14, 2011, without being informed of their charges. In October 2012, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions (WGAD) issued an opinion “request[ing] the Government [of Iran] to release Hossein Mossavi, Mehdi Karoubi, [and] Zahra Rahnavard,” calling their detentions “arbitrary (and thus prohibited).” The WGAD also announced that by keeping the opposition leaders in detention without informing them of their charges or putting them on trial, the Iranian government has “violated international human rights law [and] also Iranian laws.” They expressed this opinion after the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran provided a description of the house arrest of the Iranian opposition leaders since February 2011, asking the WGAD for a review.