By Davar Iran Ardalan

Human rights lawyer Abdolfattah Soltani just spoke with me from his law office in Tehran. He is a colleague of Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi.

Soltani said he was finishing up some casework and would be joining a rally in Azadi Square in Tehran in response to the call by reformist presidential candidates Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karrubi to gather for a peaceful protest of Friday's election results, in which incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was declared the winner.

Soltani is a founding member of the Defenders of Human Rights Center in Tehran.

Here are excerpts from the telephone interview (translated from Farsi):

Question: "What is the atmosphere like today in Tehran?"
Soltani: "The situation is very dangerous and yet Mr. Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mr. Karrubi have both called for calm and non-violent protest. Both presidential candidates have asked those who voted for them to march towards Azadi Square in Tehran. I plan to do the same today."
Question: "There are reports of wide spread arrests what have you heard?"
Soltani: "Yes, we have heard this and just this morning we received a phone call from the dormitory of the University of Tehran in the Amirabad Shomali area. We were told that at midnight last night government agents stormed Tehran University dormitories in that location and arrested hundreds of people. We were told that many were beaten and taken away."
Question: "How would you characterize what you are seeing today?"
Soltani: "We have had 28 to 29 elections in Iran in the past 30 years and have seen nothing like this. The government didn't allow for any independent monitoring of the elections and vote count. The people are demoralized and want there to be complete transparency.
"On behalf of all of Iran's human rights activits, we call on the Iranian government to allow for a recount of the votes and to have independent NGO's (non-governmental organizations) and international monitors present. This is the only way that we can get to the truth."

(Davar Iran Ardalan is supervising senior producer of Weekend Edition. Earlier, she posted about an e-mail she received from a Tehran.)

categories: Foreign News

9:47 - June 15, 2009