Iranian students chant for release of political prisoners during Rouhani speech

Iranian president preaches "tolerance" after students call for release of opposition politicians during speech at Tehran university.

December 7, 2013 14:16
1 minute read.
Iran's President Hassan Rouhani

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani. (photo credit: Reuters)


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Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was greeted with calls for the release of jailed opposition leaders during an address to university students in Tehran on Saturday, AFP reported.

The so-called moderate Rouhani responded to the chants at Shahid Beheshti University by stating that his government "is committed to the promises it has made to the people, but we need to create internal consensus to achieve the objectives."
He told the crowd gathered in honor of Iran's Students' Day that tolerance and patience, removed from an emotional atmosphere, could resolve the dispute over jailed political prisoners. "Reason and moderation can resolve the issues."

Former presidential candidates Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi have been under house arrest since February 2011 without charges being filed against them.

Students calling for the opposition leaders to be freed were met with competing slogans from hardline students, affiliated with the Basij militia, who called for "seditionists" to be hanged, according to AFP.

"If we cannot solve an internal issue of ours with calm and reason, within the framework of the law and with internal consensus, how can we resolve the complicated issues of the region and the world," AFP quoted Rouhani as saying.

Rouhani pardoned 80 prisoners in September in an easing of the Islamic Republic's strict security policies.

The pardons were in keeping with his pledge to loosen a repressive security grip that Iranians say has been prevalent since the 2009 re-election of his hardline conservative predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. 

An Iranian government spokesman said last week that lifting the house arrests of Mousavi and Karoubi was on Rouhani's agenda, AFP reported.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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