US condemns Iran arrests, intimidation
WASHINGTON (AFP) – The United States condemned the Iranian government Sunday for what it said was an organized campaign of intimidation and arrests of political figures, journalists and activists.
“The United States strongly condemns the Iranian government’s organized intimidation campaign and arrests of political figures, human rights defenders, political activists, student leaders, journalists and bloggers,” the US National Security Council said in a statement by its spokesman.
“The Iranian government also continues to deny its citizens access to information by jamming satellite transmissions and blocking Internet sites,” the statement said.
It called on the Iranian government to allow “active dialogue among its citizens, freedom of speech, and freedom of assembly without fear.”
The statement followed a call on Saturday by former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami for the release from house arrest of opposition leaders Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi.
Websites maintained by the two men’s supporters called for a new round of protests on Tuesday to press for their release.
Washington, meanwhile, has tried to keep up the pressure on the Iranian regime as a wave of popular uprisings sweeps the region, toppling US-backed autocrats in Egypt and Tunisia and challenging others to make political reforms.
On Wednesday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton praised the “bravery” of Iranian protesters and condemned the Iranian government for its systematic crackdown on dissent.
“The United States remains deeply concerned by the persecution of Iranian citizens at the hand of their government,” Clinton said in a written statement.
“Over the past ten days, we have witnessed the bravery of thousands of Iranians who once again took to the streets to exercise their fundamental rights to peaceful assembly and expression,” she said.
“It has been made clear to the world that Iran denies its citizens the same fundamental rights it continues to applaud elsewhere in the Middle East.”
Mousavi and Karroubi led a string of protests in Iran after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s controversial re-election in June 2009, which they claim was rigged.
Their opposition to Ahmadinejad has shaken the Islamic regime and divided the nation’s elite Shiite clergy.