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Second suspect denies role in Iran serial murders
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posted January 08, 2001 09:46
TEHRAN, Jan 6 (Reuters) - A second Iranian defendant on Saturday denied any involvement in the 1998 murders of intellectuals and liberal dissidents by "rogue" secret police agents and their helpers, the official
IRNA news agency said. Eighteen men, including intelligence ministry agents, have been charged with murdering nationalists Darioush and Parvaneh Forouhar, and writers
Mohammad Mokhtari and Mohammad Jafar Pouyandeh in the closing months of that year.
Many reformists say the murders were part of a wider campaign by state-sponsored death squads to silence opposition.
They say that the actual number killed was far higher than the four named in the court proceedings, with perhaps hundreds of murders and disappearances stretching over 10 years.
A military judge in Tehran ordered the trial to be held behind closed doors, citing national security. Only scant details of the proceedings have emerged.
Alireza Akbarian, was only the second of 15 suspects who have so far given testimony not to confess to the crimes.
Charged with assisting in the murders of the Fohouhar couple, he said he knew about the killings but remained outside the house while they were being committed.
One man admitted to killing the couple, found dead from multiple stab wounds in their home in late 1998. Another three defendants on Saturday admitted to helping in the murders.
In previous hearings defendants have said they took their orders from Mostafa Kazemi, a former head of internal security at the intelligence ministry and another man, Merhdad Alikhani.
Kazemi told the court he had masterminded the murders, while Alikhani said the decision was taken "collectively".
But the most senior government agent arrested in connection to the killings died in custody after drinking hair remover. Many question the official coroner's verdict of suicide.
A pair of reformist journalists and a former interior minister have said responsibility for the murders goes much higher. Several senior clerics in the conservative establishment are implicated in the conspiracy, they said.
All three are now in jail and the judiciary, dominated by the clergy, has vowed to prosecute anyone else making "unauthorised revelations" in the case.
Victims' families and their lawyers are boycotting the proceedings in protest at the removal of evidence and the restriction of the prosecution to only four murders.
The affair has not helped moderate President Mohammad Khatami who was swept to power in 1997 elections promising to ensure freedom of speech and the rule of law.
All times are PT (US)
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