Authorities in Iran have handed a six-month jail term to a son of Mehdi Karroubi, a former Iranian opposition leader and presidential candidate who has been held under house arrest in Iran since February 2011, Iranian reformist website Kaleme reported today. A Revolutionary Court has found Hossein Karroubi guilty of “propagating against the regime” after he published his father’s open letter to President Hassan Rouhani, in which he had blasted the “despotic regime” for illegally putting him under house arrest and called for a public trial. According to Kaleme, the case against Hossein Karroubi was prepared by the Intelligence Ministry. He has denied the allegations of engaging in anti-regime propaganda.

Separately, Mohammad Taghi Karroubi, another son of Mehdi Karroubi, told the Center for Human Rights in Iran today that the elderly opposition leader was being denied access to timely emergency medical services.

Comment: Read more than seven years since the 2009 presidential elections in Iran, controversies related to the disputed polls and the regime’s subsequent crackdown of the protest movement continue to haunt the Islamic Republic. As the country is gearing up for presidential elections in May, intelligence and judicial authorities have intensified crackdown on opposition figures, reformist politicians, journalists and human rights activists.

The two 2009 presidential candidates, Mehdi Karroubi and Hossein Mousavi (and Mousavi’s wife Zahra Rahnavard), have remained under house arrest since February 2010 without formal charges or trial. Iran’s hardliners accuse them of attempting to topple the regime – a charge they have repeatedly rejected. Last year, Karroubi wrote a letter to Rouhani and pleaded for an open trial. “I am not asking you to lift my house arrest, nor do I believe that it is in your power to do so… I want you to ask the despotic regime to grant me a public trial based on Article 168 of the Constitution… With the help of God and my lawyer, we will hear the indictment and we will present our evidence to the public about the fraudulent [2005] Presidential election, the rigging of the [2009] Presidential election and what happened to the children of this country in legal and illegal detention centers. The outcome of this trial will show which side in the [2009] election dispute has turned its back on the revolution,” he reportedly wrote to the president.

The letter antagonize regime officials. On December 6, Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Eje'i, Iran’s deputy chief justice who served as the minister of intelligence during the 2009 elections, said the opposition leaders had committed “crimes” and the directive to keep them under house was still valid. And earlier this year, a senior intelligence official of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (I.R.G.C.) said “the people” want the opposition leaders to be executed.

The continued detention of opposition leaders has also tarnished Rouhani's popularity in Iran and may adversely impact his bid for reelection in May. The president is facing growing criticism for his failure to fulfill his 2013 election promise to free political prisoners. Mousavi’s daughters last year penned an open letter criticizing the president for not taking action to free their father.