Victims' families boycott trial of 16 'rogue' agents
By Chris de Bellaigue in Tehran
26 December 2000
Sixteen "rogue" secret agents and their accomplices were yesterday
answering charges related to the 1998 serial murders of dissident intellectuals
on the second day of Iran's most important trial in recent years. Cartoon here
But the families of the victims are boycotting the trial, which is being
held behind close doors.
Their complaint is the case file that has been prepared for the trial
of the 16 members of Iran's feared Intelligence Ministry and a driver.
The authors of this file, say lawyers, have tried to protect senior politicians
alleged to have ordered the murders.
"The most important points have been taken out," says Siyavash
Mokhtari, the son of assassinated writer Ibrahim Mokhtari.
But the deeper problem is the failure of Iran's reformist government
to fulfil promises to enlarge democracy and make the justice system work
not just for the powerful religious conservative elite, but for all Iranians.
Hopes ran high when President Mohammad Khatami forced the Intelligence
Ministry to admit responsibility for the killings.
Since then, however, these hopes have dissipated. Last year, the key
witness "committed suicide" in jail his confessions have
apparently been expunged from the case file.
Earlier this month, one of the families' lawyers was arrested for revealing,
among other things, that the defendants had confessed to two other murders.
Neither of these murders is being investigated.
Akbar Ganji, a journalist who last month claimed that a former intelligence
minister and a senior conservative judge had ordered the murders, is behind
Mr Ganji says the murders number not four, but about 80 most of
them committed during the presidency of Mr Khatami's predecessor, Ali-Akbar
Saeed Hajarian, the Khatami aide said to possess the most information
about the murders, was shot and almost killed this year by an Islamic militant.
Mr Mokhtari says: "Those forces that ordered the murders have tried
at every step to obstruct those seeking justice."
Of the seven-man core of a key Iranian writers' association, Ibrahim
Mokhtari was one of two serial murder victims. Two more were on a notorious
black list of dissidents apparently selected for "execution".
Another fled abroad.
Mr Mokhtari, says his son, was given "friendly warnings" several
times, and twice he attended closed court hearings, which he was ordered
not to discuss.
"There is no way to prove it but I think it was at this time that
they issued a death sentence against him."
Shortly afterwards, Mr Mokhtari was bundled into a car in Tehran's busy
Africa Avenue. A few days later, Siyavash Mokhtari identified his father's
corpse. He had been strangled.