Tuesday 01 December 2015

Surviving Family Members Call for Public Support

Seventeen years after the assassination of a large group of prominent Iranians by members of the state security apparatus, surviving family members have called for the public to remain in sympathy with them. Family members of Parvaneh and Darioosh Foruhar, Piruz Davani, Majid Sharif, Mohammad Mokhtari, Mohammad-Jaafar Pooyandeh, and Hamid and Karoon Hajizadeh issued a statement that says there was “no judiciary examination of the murders or if there was, it was derailed.” What followed the murders, the statement reads, was “cover-ups, corruption, threats and crackdown. Our efforts, those of our attorneys and all others who came along did not result in anything. These disruptive and derailing events added to the injustice and pain that we had already suffered.”

The surviving members wrote that 17 years ago their loved ones were kidnapped after secret sentences, the houses of some were violated and ultimately they were murdered in a hideous manner. “The political assassinations of 1998 created a deep wound in the social spirit and created a publish backlash and protest. This forced state authorities to respond and reveal the state-organized violence against dissidents. They pressed for judicial examination and called for justice. But all their efforts hit a wall made up of distortion and crackdown by state agencies and ultimately attained nothing,” the statement reads.

The media in Iran gave these assassinations and murders of dissidents the name of serial murders which were committed by agents from Iran’s ministry of intelligence.

The news of Darioosh and Parvaneh Foruhar’s murders (the leaders of the Iranian Nation’s Party), Mohammad Mokhtari and Mohammad Jaafar Pooyandeh who writers and members of Iran’s writers guild were published as Mohammad Khatami was in his second year of presidency.

But the physical elimination of dissidents and thinkers in the Islamic republic of Iran by the security services of the country had begun years before 1998. Ultimately, state authorities accepted responsibility for the murder of only four individuals and even then they tried to contain the murders in the cases of the Foruhars, Mokhtari and Pooyandeh and blame “rogue” elements within the ministry for the murders. The murder of Mohammad Sharif, author, translator, and a member of the center that published Dr Shariati’s works took place as he disappeared on November 30, 1998 and then his body was found 7 days later at the coroner’s office. Pirooz Davani was killed on August 25 of 1998 and his body was never found. Because of this, his case was not included in the murders examined by the Islamic republic.

In Iran, journalists and the public view Sharif Davani, Ahmad Amir Alai, Ghafar Hosseini, Hossein Barazandeh, Ibrahim Zalzadeh, Kazem Sami, Ahmad Tafazoli, Manoutchehr Sanei, Hamid Hajizadeh and his ten-year old son Karoon, Kazem Sami, Haik Hoosepianmehr, Fereidoon Farokhzad and Massomeh Mosadegh – the grand daughter of former prime minister Mossadegh – and tens of other thinkers and political critics as the victims of the serial murders but the regime of the Islamic republic has not accepted any responsibility for these murders.

It was only after the heightened public outcry that the ministry of intelligence was forced to accept responsibility for the deaths of the Foruhars, Mokhtari and Pooyandeh.

After the partial exposes, the then minister of intelligence Dori Najafabadi resigned and a number of senior agents from the ministry of intelligence were arrested. They included Saeed Imami, who was then the advisor and deputy minister of intelligence, along with Akbar Khoshkoosh who was the head of the swat team.

Not only did the state not take any responsibility in the murders, but any person who exposed the killings was himself prosecuted. The initial suspects in the case were ultimately either released, padrones, or freed from prison. The judiciary department of the armed forces announced that one of the ring leaders of the murders, Saeed Imami, had committed suicide in prison, something that public opinion or political and media circles in the country never accepted. They believe he too was murdered as a damage control effort by agents of the state to prevent more exposes of the top leaders of the murderers. Subsequently, attorneys for the Foruhars revealed that the washing powder that was claimed to have been used by Imami to commit suicide never contained arsenic material to have killed Imami. Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi also announced that it was not possible for Imami to have killed himself using washing powder.

The judiciary agency of Iran’s military named Saeed Imami, Khosrow Barati, Mehrdad Alikhani and Mostafa Kazemi as the main perpetrators of the murders. They were tried in camera and Mousavi and Alikhani were sentenced to 4 counts of murder for killing Mokhtari and Pooyande. Mousavi and Jaafarzade and Mohseni were sentenced to 26 slashes and 25 slashes for striking Darioosh and Parvaneh Foruhar with knives. Hamid Rasooli, Majid Azizi and Morteza Falah were sentenced as conspirators to life imprisonment. Abolfazl Moslemi, Mohammad Asnaashar, Ali Safaipoor, Mostafa Hashemi and Ali Nazeri also reached prison sentences of 8, 7, 7, 8 and 2.5 years respectively. Asqar Saya and Khosro Barati got 6-year and 10-year prison sentences while Iraj Amoozegar, Morteza Haghani and Alireza Akbarian were dismissed. The remaining detained suspects were released and the top officials who ordered the killings were never tried. But those who exposed the murders were charged and imprisoned. Naser Zarafshan who was the defense attorney for the families of the murdered individuals went to jail in 2001 for “revealing state secrets, possessing alcoholic drinks and possession of firearms.” After he was released from prison, he said he did not change his mind about the murders and added, “The serial murders had many secrets and I had not even said much about them. They wanted to silence me anyway.”

Hamid Kaviani, the editor of Khordad and Hambastegi newspapers who followed the murders disappeared for a while and then ended up in the psychology ward of Imam Khomeini hospital. He wrote the book, “In Search of the Home of the Criminals” which was later banned.

Emadedin Baghi, who along with Akbar Ganji played a prominent role in exposing the murders had several suits against them by the state and both ended up in jail. He wrote, “The Tragedy of Democracy in Iran” on the subject of the serial murders. The permit to reprint the book was suspended after its sixth publication.

Ganji wrote “Tarikkhaneh Ashbah” and “Alijenab Sorkhpoosh” and was arrested and spent 6 years in prison. In his exposes, he named senior Iranian authorities responsible for the murders.

Shirin Ebadi too who defended the family members of the victims too was sentenced.

Salam, Khordad and Sobh Emrouz newspaper which played a key role in exposing the murders were all shut. Saeed Hajarian, the editor of Salam and Abdollah Nouri, the editor of Khordad were also both sentenced to prison terms. Hajjarian was the victim of an assassination attempt himself and till today continues to suffer from the bullet wounds he suffered. But he was again arrested in the aftermath of the rigged 2009 presidential elections and spent 106 days in prison.

Abdollah Nouri accused the minister of intelligence, Dori Najafabadi, to have had a hand in the murders by issuing their death sentences, or fatwas. Being a cleric, Nouri was tried in the clerical court and went to prison for his exposes.

But the perpetrators of the murders even got government promotions. Roohollah Hosseinian and Hossein Shariatmadari are among these. Hosseinian is a Majlis member who officially defended Saeed Imami for his murders because the victims according to him were “strong supporters of the president.” He said those who were killed were opponents of the regime.

Shariatmadari was appointed directly by ayatollah Khamenei to head the Kayhan group of newspapers.

While Ali Falahian, Poormohammadi, Dori Najafabadi, Mohseni Ejei and others are listed as the definitive top perpetrators of these murders, none of them have been tried or even charged. They too got promotions in their government jobs. Falahian and Najafabadi went to become Majlis representatives. Poormohammadi and Ejei also go promoted, the first became the minister of interior and the second the attorney general in Rouhani’s administration.

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