Iranian security forces armed with sticks and tear gas canisters have clashed with protestors demanding the release of Iranian opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi.
Demonstrators took to the streets in Tehran on March 1 after the families of the two said that the men, along with their wives, had been removed from their homes. The families announced they have been unable to communicate with their relatives since the middle of February, when Mr. Mousavi and Mr. Karroubi were placed under house arrest after calling for demonstrations in support of pro-democracy protests in the Middle East. There are reports that the leaders and their wives were taken by force to Heshmatiyeh prison in Tehran.
Mr. Karroubi and Mr. Mousavi, who both ran in the disputed presidential election of 2009, are regarded as leaders in Iran's so-called "Green Movement." They supported the calls for transparency, political reform, and freedom that brought millions of Iranians into the streets in 2009 after what many viewed as a fraudulent election. Those protests were violently put down by Iranian security forces.
The Iranian government denies that Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubbi and their wives are in prison. However, it will not discuss their whereabouts, and acknowledges that all contact with them has been severed. Iran's chief prosecutor Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejehi called their cut off from all contact "the first step" for the two opposition leaders, and warned that others could follow. Last month, pro-government members of Iran's Majlis [i.e. parliament] called for their execution.
The treatment of the two leaders has been denounced inside and outside Iran. In addition to protestors in the streets, prominent Iranians, including Grand Ayatollah Yousef Sanei and Ahmad Montazeri, the son of the late Grand Ayatollah Ali Montzeri, have condemned the arrest and called for release of the two men.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said that the United States considers "the detention of opposition leaders to be unacceptable," and he called for Mr. Karroubi and Mr. Mousavi "to be treated well and released."