World and Nation

Two popular Iranian opposition leaders are mysteriously missing

CAIRO — The mystery over the whereabouts of the two main Iranian opposition leaders, Mir Hussein Moussavi and Mehdi Karroubi, deepened Monday with contradictory reports over whether they had been jailed on the eve of a nationwide protest or remained under extreme house arrest, completely cut off from the outside world.

The two have not been seen in public or by their adult children since just before the Feb. 14 protests that they called for, ostensibly in solidarity with Arab uprisings, but which quickly transformed into anti-government rallies across the Islamic republic.

The website Kaleme, published by Moussavi supporters, said both men and their wives were now incarcerated at Heshmatieh prison in Tehran, but it was unclear when exactly they were removed from their homes.

Another website, Saham News, which is run by Karroubi’s supporters, quoted one of his sons as saying that a neighbor saw the couple carted off to an undisclosed location around midnight Thursday. Eight security vans surrounded the house before the former presidential candidate and his wife were taken away in a car, and the house has been dark at night since, neighbors reported.

The children of Moussavi and his wife had approached their house many times, but security guards turned them away with ambiguous and contradictory answers about their whereabouts, Kaleme said. The same happened to the Karroubi children, they said.

The official IRNA news agency quoted an official as confirming the report, at least obliquely. Gholam Hossein Mohseni-Ejehi said the government severed all outside contact with the opposition leaders to end sedition and would take unspecified other measures if required.

In Washington, the White House press secretary, Jay Carney, described their reported detention as “unacceptable” and said they should be released.

Iranian youth groups have called for a series of demonstrations every Tuesday leading up to the Iranian new year toward the end of March. The first one on March 1 is supposed to express support for the two men.

However, the semiofficial Fars news agency denied that the two couples were imprisoned. Fars quoted an unidentified official as saying the two men remained under house arrest, if isolated. The government has held off throwing them in jail, worried it would give their restless supporters in the Green movement a new cause to rally around.