By AFSHIN VALINEJAD, Associated Press Writer
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) - Four former agents of Iran's Intelligence Ministry confessed in court Tuesday to playing roles in the slayings of four writers and dissidents, state-run Tehran Radio reported.
The four men are among 17 defendants standing trial for the 1998 killings, which became a national scandal. The Intelligence Ministry said its employees were involved, describing them as ``rogue agents,'' and the minister resigned.
The trial is being conducted behind closed doors in a military court, and the only reports emerging come from state media.
The killings began on Nov. 22, 1998, with the stabbing of Dariush Forouhar and his wife, Parvaneh, who ran a small opposition party. In the following weeks, writers Mohammad Jafar Pouyandeh and Mohammad Mokhtari were kidnapped and found dead on the outskirts of Tehran. They had apparently been strangled.
Last week, the first of the 17 defendants to testify, Seyyed Mostafa Kazemi, told the court he was one of those who ordered the killings. A second defendant, Mehrdad Alikhani, also confessed to a role in the killings.
On Tuesday, three defendants testified that they carried out one or more of the killings and a fourth told the court he played a lesser role. All four are former Intelligence Ministry agents.
One of the defendants, Ali Roshani, confessed he killed Mokhtari and Pouyandeh, Tehran radio said. When asked why he did so, Roshani said he was acting under the orders of Kazemi and Alikhani.
Another defendant, Mahmoud Jaafar Zadeh, said he killed Forouhar and the third of Tuesday's witnesses, Ali Mohseni, said he killed Forouhar's wife, Tehran Radio reported.
The fourth man, Hamid Rasooli, said he provided assistance for the killing of Forouhar and his wife. The radio report did not specify what form the assistance took.
The families of the victims withdrew their lawyers from the case before the trial started on Dec. 23, saying they feared the trial's verdict would be ``against justice and the will of the nation.'' Reformist lawmakers and moderate newspapers have also expressed doubts about the proceedings and called for an open trial.
Last month, the authorities detained a lawyer for two of the families, Naser Zarafshan, after he made a speech about the killings. He remains in detention.