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Author Topic:   Murder trial clears the regime, leaves the victims dissatisfied
Vatandoost
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posted January 29, 2001 09:13     Click Here to See the Profile for Vatandoost   Click Here to Email Vatandoost     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
TEHRAN, Jan 28 (AFP) - The judiciary left the clerical regime in the clear and victims'families claiming justice was not done in a secret trial that saw three former intelligence agents condemned to death for the 1998 murders of dissidents. "What matters is that we find out the truth," said Parastou Foruhar, daughter of nationalist leader Dariush Foruhar and his wife Parvaneh, who were found stabbed to death in Tehran in November 1998. "And that hasn't happened," she said, speaking to AFP from Germany.

"We didn't want my parents' killers to be sentenced to death and executed," she said. "My parents did not believe in the death penalty."

Tehran's military court on Saturday sentenced three agents to death and handed down five other life sentences for the killing of the Foruhars as well as liberal writers Mohammad Pouyandeh and Mohammad Mokhtari.

The well-known writers, who regularly called for greater freedom of expression in Islamic Iran, were murdered separately along with a third writer, Majid Sharif, in the weeks after the killing of the Foruhars.

Seven other defendants received lesser sentences while three men were acquitted.

Sharif's murder did not figure in the trial by the court, which held the proceedings behind closed doors because of what it called national security concerns.

The intelligence ministry in 1999 acknowledged that a network of "rogue" agents was behind the assassinations but denied they had been carried out with the knowledge or authorisation of top ministry officials.

Meanwhile the agent named as the mastermind behind the killings, Said Emami, was reported to have committed suicide in prison in June 1999. "The role of Said Emami was never brought up (in the trial)," Ahmad Sadr, the
first lawyer for the children of the Foruhars after their assasination,told AFP.

"The killers acted on orders, they were part of an administration. Who is responsible?" said Sadr, who was the justice minister in 1979 under Iran's post-revolutionary provisional government.

"The Iranian people want to understand, and they don't understand," he said, adding that the decision on what to include or exclude from the proceedings was solely down to judge Mohammad-Reza Aghighi. "The families are not satisfied," he said.

Aghighi announced that two of those given life sentences are still to be tried before a revolutionary court for implicating then-intelligence minister Ghorbanali Dorri-Najafabadi in their testimony.

They are to be charged with acting against national security, which could carry the death penalty if they are convicted. All the defendants can appeal their sentences.

Lawyer Mahmud Kashani said he was most surprised that the verdict made no reference tothe motives for the killing. "They committed a political act which has not been explained," he said, noting that only two lawyers reportedly defended the 18 suspects, while none at all were on hand to represent the families.

Relatives of the victims suddenly fired their lawyers on the eve of the trial in December and boycotted the hearings in protest, complaining of the intense secrecy surrounding the case.

"The judiciary hit hard, but without calming public opinion or appeasing the families," said political analyst Dariush Abdali. "The truth so far seems to have been covered up."

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Vatandoost
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posted January 29, 2001 09:16     Click Here to See the Profile for Vatandoost   Click Here to Email Vatandoost     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Sister of serial murders victim says trial leaves problem unsolved

BBC Monitoring Service
Jan 27, 2001

Text of report by Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) web site

Tehran, 27 January: Mohammad Ja'far Puyandeh's sister has said: If the
roots of the serial murders are not uncovered and the people who gave the orders not specifically and totally exposed, citizens' rights and national security will be endangered.

Speaking to the Iranian Students' News Agency (ISNA) correspondent, Safa Puyandeh added: The main thing is that the serial murders trial was held in camera.

We have always declared, for our own part, that we are not the only next of kin in this case, but that the case is a national one and the entire Iranian nation is the next of kin, and the authorities are accountable to the public conscience on this.

She also criticized the proceedings of the serial murders trial and added:
The specific identification and punishment of the people who gave the orders for the serial murders is more important to us than the punishment of the perpetrators.

We may even consider these agents to have been led astray themselves.

If it is not made totally clear who gave the orders for the serial murders, how can there be any guarantee that my child or husband or any other citizen has any security?

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Vatandoost
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posted January 30, 2001 08:42     Click Here to See the Profile for Vatandoost   Click Here to Email Vatandoost     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Iran's 'rogue agents' get death sentence

The Guardian
By Geneive Abdo in Tehran

January 29, 2001

Three Iranian secret agents have been sentenced to death by the military court and 12 others jailed for terms up to life for killing four secular dissidents. The sentences confirm the belief that the murders were part of a broad campaign of terror.

Judge Mohammad Reza Aqiqi passed the sentences for the murder of two elderly nationalists, Darioush and Parvaneh Forouhar, and two writers, Mohammad Mokhtari and Mohammad Jafar Pouyandeh, in 1998. The murders shocked Iranians at home and abroad.

Among the five given life terms for ordering the murders were two former directors of the intelligence ministry, Mostafa Kazemi and Mehrdad Alikhani, according to the 17-page verdict made public on Saturday. Seven
got lesser jail terms and three defendants, all intelligence operatives, were acquitted.

Reformers want to know why more senior figures were untouched.

'How come a petty operational agent of a government institution, who was only carrying out an order by a superior . . . receives a harsher sentence than that of his commander?' the Islamic Iran Participation Front asked.

Its criticisms were carried by the state news agency, Irna.

Judge Aqiqi said Kazemi and Alikhani had prepared a hit list of up to 40 intended victims. This seems to support the view long held in Iran's reformist camp that the four murders were part of a planned drive by conservatives to stifle dissent.

Reformers maintain that they were among 80 murders in more than 10 years. Two investigative journalists and a former vice-president said the responsibility went much higher, involving senior clerics, state officials and the former president Ali Hashemi Rafsanjani. These allegations have
all been denied.

It is unlikely that the verdicts will lead to revelations about other culprits or victims: the hearing was held behind closed doors and the judiciary vowed to prosecute anyone making 'unauthorised revelations' about the case.

The intelligence ministry says the men were rogue agents who eliminated enemies of the regime on orders from immediate superiors, without the knowledge of those higher up.

The right wing was quick top say the case was closed. 'The judge's verdict is the last word. Criticism of the judge, his verdict or the judiciary must not take place,' said the conservative daily Resalat.

President Mohammad Khaami has vowed to work for a society based on the rule of law. When the intelligence service admitted in January 1999 that its agents were responsible for the murders, the minister in charge, Qorbanali Dorri Najafabadi, was forced to resign.

But there are many unanswered questions in the affair. One concerns the death of the most senior government agent arrested in connection with the killings, identified as the deputy intelligence minister, called either Saeed Emami or Saeed Eslami. He died in custody after drinking hair remover.

Many are sceptical of the coroner's verdict of suicide.

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posted January 30, 2001 08:44     Click Here to See the Profile for Vatandoost   Click Here to Email Vatandoost     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
No more political murder, says Iran security chief

TEHRAN, Jan 29 (Reuters) - The head of Iran"s powerful security apparatus, apparently trying to calm unease over the verdicts in the 1998 murders of four secular dissidents, said political killings were a thing of the past. "This was not a common crime, the murderers were political figures," the official news agency IRNA on Monday quoted Intelligence Minister Ali Younessi as saying. "Such things will not happen again," he said in remarks first made to Iranian television.

On Saturday a military court announced it had sentenced three secret agents to death and five to life terms for the murders of nationalists Darioush and Parvaneh Forouhar and writers Mohammad Mokhtari and Mohammad
Jafar Pouyandeh. Seven of the 18 defendants, all intelligence ministry personnel, received lesser jail terms and three were acquitted.

The closed-door hearings and the failure of prosecutors to indict ranking intelligence officials has angered Iran"s reform movement, which suspects a cover-up.

"The case of the serial murders will never fade into oblivion," said theIslamic Iran Participation Front, the largest pro-reform movement.

"How is it possible for a lowly man in the intelligence ministry to implement an execution order from his superior and not believe his action is a crime?" a Front statement said.

"As long as all aspects and dimensions (of the case) remain unclear, it will not leave the mind of the nation." Reformers also demanded more information on suggestions in the court"s ruling that two of the accused, ministry directors Mehrdad Alikhani and Mostafa Kazemi, had prepared a list of more than 40 people slated for possible "elimination."

But Younessi, brought in to run the ministry after the murder scandal forced out his predecessor, said the judge"s 17- page ruling had to be seen as "conclusive" and the case was effectively closed.

The defendants have 20 days to appeal their sentences to the Supreme Court.

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posted January 30, 2001 08:47     Click Here to See the Profile for Vatandoost   Click Here to Email Vatandoost     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Iran reformers reject trial verdict

The Financial Times
By Guy Dinmore in Tehran

January 28 2001 22:02GMT

Iran's main reformist party on Sunday rejected the outcome of a trial of 18 Intelligence Ministry agents accused of operating death squads, and declared its determination to find the "naked truth" behind a series of political murders that have rocked the Islamic system.

At the end of Iran's most sensitive trial since the 1979 revolution, Tehran's military court on Saturday sentenced to death three men who carried out the killings, imposed life sentences on five others and jailed seven more for up to 10 years. Three were acquitted.

The trial, held behind closed doors, focused on the murders in late 1998 of four dissidents, two writers and an elderly couple who had founded the secular Iran Nation party. But reformists have long rejected the official explanation that "rogue agents" were responsible and that the killings were limited to four.

Akbar Ganji, a journalist now in prison, has named eight conservative clerics, including judges and two former intelligence ministers, he says were behind the killings, which may have numbered more than 80 during the 1990s.

Some conservative politicians have blamed the murders on the pro-reform faction or foreign intelligence agencies seeking to destabilise Iran.

The highest official among the 18 accused was Mostafa Kazemi, a department director. He and one other were jailed for life for ordering the killings.

To the surprise of many, the judge revealed on television one crucial detail from the trial - that Mr Kazemi in his final defence accused his former minister, Ghorban-Ali Dorri-Najafabadi, of ordering the killings. But the judge said the minister had been cleared during earlier investigations.

Mr Dorri-Najafabadi was dismissed in early 1999 when the government under Mohammad Khatami, the pro-reform president, made the remarkable admission that death squads had been active within the ministry.

Conservative newspapers on Sunday called on the two sides of the political divide to accept the verdicts in the interests of national unity. But the Islamic Iran Participation Front, led by the president's brother, demanded the conservative-controlled judiciary clear up many questions.

Ali Shakourirad, an MP in the pro-reform party, told the Financial Times that parliament would probably summon officials named during the trial.

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posted January 31, 2001 09:51     Click Here to See the Profile for Vatandoost   Click Here to Email Vatandoost     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Iran Acts Quickly to Close Case of 4 Slain Dissidents

International Herald Tribune Geneive Abdo

Monday, January 29, 2001

TEHRAN Iran's powerful religious conservatives were quick to declare on
Sunday that a military court's decision to impose death sentences on three Iranian secret agents convicted of killing four dissidents in 1998 meant that the case was closed.

The warning, issued through the conservative daily newspaper Resalat, brought into sharp focus the clash between religious conservatives and reformers, who have charged that as many as 80 dissidents were slain in the last 10 years on orders from the highest ranks of the Iranian government.

The warning came after the judge in the case said the killers had a list of 40 more people targeted for assassination, a statement that supports reformers' claims that the killings were part of a broad campaign of terror.

The military court judge, Mohammed Reza Aqiqi, on Saturday sentenced the three agents to death for carrying out the killings of the four dissidents, Darioush and Parvaneh Forouhar, Mohammed Mokhtari and Mohammed
Jafar Pouyandeh.

Five other defendants, including two former Intelligence Ministry directors, Mostafa Kazemi and Mehrdad Alikhani, were given life terms for ordering the killings, according to the 17-page verdict made public after the trial, which was conducted in secret. Seven others defendants received lesser jail terms and three of the 18 accused, all intelligence
operatives, were acquitted.

Few details surrounding the month long trial emerged because the judge barred the public and the press from the courtroom, saying that secrecy was necessary to protect national security. The judiciary has vowed to prosecute anyone making "unauthorized revelations" about the case.

"The judge's verdict is the last word," the Resalat newspaper said in an editorial published on Sunday. "Criticism of the judge, his verdict or the judiciary must not take place."

The case made public some of the worst misdeeds of the Islamic regime. And it brought to a head the institutional power of the conservatives in the judiciary, the clergy and the intelligence service, who are pitted against President Mohammed Khatami, who ordered that a special commission be
established to investigate the killings.

The newspaper Doran-e Emrouz, which is allied with the reformers, reported on Sunday that Judge Aqiqi had said that Mr. Kazemi and Mr. Alikhani had prepared a list of up to 40 victims to be targeted for assassination. The
reformers have long argued that the four murders were part of a planned drive to stifle dissent and cement the conservative establishment's hold on power. Two journalists and a former vice president said responsibility for the murders went much higher, involving senior clerics, state officials and former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. The allegations have all been denied.

Despite these claims, it is unlikely the verdicts will lead to further revelations. In his ruling, Judge Aqiqi noted that he lacked the authority to pursue aspects of the crimes punishable under Iran's Islamic code.

Intelligence Ministry officials said the killers were rogue agents who had eliminated enemies of the regime on orders from their immediate superiors, without the knowledge of top officials.

When the intelligence service announced in January 1999 that rogue agents were responsible for the killings, the intelligence minister, Qorbanali
Dorri Najafabadi, was forced to resign in what was widely seen as the first step by President Khatami to gain control over the state security apparatus. But that effort was quickly derailed.

The most senior government agent arrested in connection with the killings, identified as Deputy Intelligence Minister Saeed Emami, died in custody after supposedly drinking hair remover. Many observers are skeptical of the official coroner's verdict of suicide.

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posted January 31, 2001 09:54     Click Here to See the Profile for Vatandoost   Click Here to Email Vatandoost     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Intelligence Agents’ Trial Inconclusive

The Human Rights Watch
New York

January 29, 2001

The secret trial of eighteen Iranian intelligence officials accused of
killing dissident intellectuals has left key questions unanswered about the ultimate responsibility for the murders, Human Rights Watch said today. Three of the defendants were sentenced to death and two to life
imprisonment on Saturday, January 27.

“When trials are secret, the public cannot tell whether justice was done,” said Hanny Megally, Executive Director of the Middle East and North Africa division of Human Rights Watch. “It’s good that the judiciary in Iran has tried to hold state officials responsible for the murders, but it’s
impossible to say that the judgements were based on the facts.” During the trial, a lawyer for two of the defendants said that he tried to introduce ten witnesses to testify that the killings were in fact ordered by the then-Minister of Intelligence, Ghorbanali Dorinajafabadi, but that the court refused to hear them. Minister Dorinajafabadi, who was not indicted, currently occupies a senior government position in the judiciary.

Family members of the victims who had access to some of the prosecution documents confirm that the minister was implicated by the defendants in a number of their statements.

Hundreds of Iranian dissidents have been assassinated at home and abroad in recent decades. “An open trial might have shed light on these murders,” said Megally. “Moreover, we cannot be sure that each of the defendants
received a sentence proportionate to the degree of his responsibility for the crimes.”

Human Rights Watch said that it opposes the death penalty in all circumstances, because of the inherent cruelty of this punishment and because of the possibility that persons wrongly convicted may be executed. “Imposing death sentences after an unfair trial does not serve the cause of justice,” Megally said.

Human Rights Watch called for all of the information collected in the course of this judicial inquiry to be placed in the public domain. “If the investigation indicates that other, more senior officials are implicated
in these events, they should be prosecuted before an open and impartial tribunal in accordance with international fair trial standards,” Megally said.

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posted January 31, 2001 09:56     Click Here to See the Profile for Vatandoost   Click Here to Email Vatandoost     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Iran families oppose death for relatives' killers

TEHRAN, Jan 30 (Reuters) - Families of four murdered dissidents said they opposed death sentences for three secret police agents convicted of killing their relatives, opening the chance of a last-minute reprieve for
the trio.

Doran-e Emrouz newspaper said on Tuesday the relatives were more concerned that the truth behind the killings be brought to light than exacting revenge on the killers.

A military court on Saturday sentenced three secret agents to death and 12 others to terms of up to life in prison for their part in the 1998 murders of secular dissidents that shocked the country. Three of the 18 agents
were acquitted.

"The families are not only opposed to the death sentences, but the prison sentences too," the newspaper quoted lawyer Ahmad Bashiri as saying on behalf of one victim's family.

Under Iran's Islamic Sharia law, relatives of murder victims have the right to overturn death sentences.

Another lawyer for the families said they had no private feuds with the murderers and were not out for revenge. They merely demanded an end to extra-judicial killings.

Judge Mohammad Reza Aqiqi's verdict, issued last week, said in addition to the four victims -- a nationalist politician, his wife and two writers -- intelligence ministry officials Mostafa Kazemi and Mehrdad Alikhani had prepared a list of more than 40 future victims.

The two were handed four life sentences each for ordering the murders. Under Iran's criminal code, those who give the order to kill are rarely sentenced to death, while those who carry out the act itself are subject to capital punishment.

"We do not accept the judgments and so we will not file appeals," Doran-e Emrouz quoted Siavash Mokhtari, son of murdered writer Mohammad Mokhtari, as saying.

Iran's reform movement has alleged that prosecutors had ignored links to other high-ranking clerics and intelligence officials and pursued only a few low-level defendants as part of a cover-up.

They say the killings were among more than 80 murders and "disappearances" stretching over 10 years as part of a campaign by state-sponsored death squads to silence opposition.

The victims' families boycotted the closed-door trial in protest against the gag order imposed by the judiciary and what they said was the removal of key evidence from the court files.

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posted January 31, 2001 09:59     Click Here to See the Profile for Vatandoost   Click Here to Email Vatandoost     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Paper says motive for "serial murders" still remains unclear

BBC Monitoring Service
Jan 30, 2001

Text of commentary in English entitled "Not over yet", published by Iranian newspaper Iran Daily web site on 30 January

After more than two years, the court hearings for the case of the 1998 serial murders ended recently and Judge Mohammad Reza Aqiqi of Branch 5 of Tehran's Military Court issued the verdicts for 18 defendants.

Undoubtedly, the court rulings are accurate and based on the Islamic penal code.

The verdicts plainly reveal that all the details of the complicated case have been duly considered. Whenever a defendant has been found guilty on the basis of firm proof, he has been handed a verdict in compliance with the country's governing laws.

However, no explanations have been yet given with regard to the motives of the murderers and their accomplices.

Perhaps one can assert that it is not within the range of duties of the court system, be it military or otherwise, to unravel the motives behind the killings. But since the Information Ministry's rouge agents have
committed the brutal crimes, it is quite important for the public to know why the illegal ring killed dissident writers and intellectuals.

The government, Supreme National Security Council, Information Ministry, Judiciary and even the parliament, as a democratic institution that supervises the performance of all the executive organs in addition to
making laws, should collaborate to discover the impetus behind the murders.

Some may even hold that it is of utmost importance to know about such motives so that a recurrence of such incidents could be consequently prevented.

Moreover, it is not yet clear whether other similar murders have been committed or not.

Could it be that the judiciary does not have any information about them? Are there any assurances that such brutalities would not be repeated in the future?

Of course, we know that the Information Ministry, in light of its reformist policies, is doing its best to thwart such ominous incidents. But this alone cannot be sufficient.

As far as public opinion is concerned, the case will remain full of ambiguities unless it becomes clear why the former Information Ministry agents committed the murders.

It goes without saying that before that happens, the government, the parliament and the Judiciary cannot preclude similar crimes.

Now we have to wait and see what policies the administration will adopt to this end.

The best approach is conceivably for the government and parliament to more closely monitor the activities of state institutions, especially the Information Ministry.

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