x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Iran denies opposition leaders are in jail as demonstrators demand their release

Demonstrators rallying to demand the release of Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mahdi Karroubi clash with Iran's security forces as judiciary officials deny the paid and their wives have been jailed.

TEHRAN // Iran's security forces fired tear gas and clashed with opposition supporters in Tehran yesterday, where demonstrators were rallying to demand the release of two opposition leaders, according to an opposition website.

"Security forces and people in civilian clothes clashed with demonstrators in Tehran to disperse them," the opposition website Kaleme reported.

Sahamnews, another opposition website, reported large numbers of security personnel stationed at main streets and squares in Tehran "to prevent gathering of opposition supporters."

The former presidential candidates Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mahdi Karroubi have not been seen in public since they called for a rally on February 14, during which thousands of their supporters demonstrated in the streets to support uprisings in the Arab world.

Opposition websites had called for yesterday's rally to demand their release. The opposition website Sahamnews reported on Monday that Mr Mousavi and Mr Karroubi had been jailed along with their wives. Judiciary officials deny the four have been jailed but say they have been kept at home and barred from contact with the outside world.

The government said yesterday that it will not respond to international questions about the whereabouts of the two couples. Iran considers the matter a "completely domestic" affair.

The comments by Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast coincided with calls on social media sites for opposition rallies.

Rights groups and family members claim Mr Mousavi and Mr Karroubi - and their wives - have been taken from their homes and jailed in an unknown location. Iranian authorities have denied the reports, but there has been no independent confirmation of their location.

Mr Mehmanparast denounced outside pressures to clarify the status of the two figures. "The internal issues of our country are completely domestic and no country is and will be allowed to interfere in the internal affairs of our country," he told reporters.

Mr Mehmanparast said any "issues relating to" Mr Mousavi and Mr Karroubi "will be dealt in the framework of law by judicial authorities."

The semiofficial news agency ISNA quoted chief prosecutor Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejehi as saying that the two men are not in a prison, but the report gave no further details.

* Reuters with additional reporting by the Associated Press