TEHRAN -- Iranian authorities have eased the terms of confinement of Mehdi Karroubi, a leader of the opposition “Green Movement” that was crushed after disputed presidential elections in 2009, his son said Sunday.
The ailing Karroubi, 76, has been allowed to move to his home in the Jamaran district of Tehran, where he remains under house arrest, his son Hussein Karroubi wrote on Facebook.
“Finally, he was transferred to his private house in Jamaran," Hussein Karroubi wrote.
The opposition icon had previously been held in a residence under the control of Iranian security services, according to the opposition.
Karroubi, a cleric and former speaker of Iran’s parliament, is one of the two leaders of Iran's Green Movement, which mobilized large-scale protests to dispute the official results of the 2009 election. That balloting resulted in the reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad amid allegations of vote-rigging.
The mass protests of 2009 became the largest anti-government demonstrations that Iran had witnessed since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. More than 20 people were killed and hundreds jailed as part of a government crackdown, the opposition says.
Karroubi and his fellow Green Movement leader, Mir Hossein Mousavi, have been under house arrest since 2011. Both were defeated presidential candidates in the 2009 balloting. Neither has ever been charged formally with a crime.
Mousavi is being held at his home in Tehran along with his wife, Zahra Rahnavard, a well-known academic. Karroubi's wife, Fatemeh Karroubi, was released about a year ago without charge or explanation.
The easing of restrictions on Karroubi came as Iran's current president, Hassan Rouhani, a moderate elected last year, is trying to improve ties with the West after years of confrontation. Since Rouhani’s election, backers of the two detained Green Movement leaders have stepped up their calls on Tehran to release the pair.
But hard-liners consider both Green Movement figures to be ringleaders of what they term “sedition” against the state.
There was no sign Sunday that either of the two would be released outright. But Ali Shakurirad, a radiologist and a close friend of the two families, expressed guarded optimism.
“It is a good signal for better days,” Shakurirad told The Times in a phone interview after news broke that Karroubi had been allowed to return to his home.
Both Green Movement leaders are reported to be ailing. Karroubi suffers from osteoporosis “because of no exposure to sunshine and lack of healthy activities,” Shakurirad told The Times.
Karroubi remains under close observation and without access to telephones or satellite TV, his son said.
A contingent of security officers has moved into an apartment on the first floor of the family residence, one level beneath the Karroubi apartment, Hussein Karroubi wrote on Facebook.
Still, allies said that it was a significant improvement for Karroubi to be in his own home and with his family.
Special correspondent Mostaghim reported from Tehran and Sandels from Beirut. Times Staff Writer Patrick J. McDonnell in Beirut contributed to this report.