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Iran militants say secret agents tortured in jail

TEHRAN, Jan 8 (Reuters) - A group of Islamic militants have accused senior clerics close to Iran's supreme leader of involvement in the cover-up of alleged torture against secret agents involved in the serial murders of dissidents.

The Basij militia and the Partizans of God, seen as fiercely loyal to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the hardline establishment, said in a statement that intelligence ministry officials implicated in the murders case were tortured into confessing to being sexually perverted Israeli spies.

Saeed Emami, a former deputy intelligence minister, was tortured into confessing to homosexuality, incest and being an Israeli agent, the statement said.

His wife was lashed until she confessed to having sex with her son and husband's friends, it added.

"The interrogators would get her to confess to sex with men her husband brought home and to which of them satisfied her most...Nobody would believe such forms of torture take place in Iran without seeing the documents.

"The masterminds of the serial murders have done everything to cover their tracks and put themselves at ease by saying the murders were carried out by foreign agents," the statement said.

Eighteen men have been charged with murdering nationalists Darioush and Parvaneh Forouhar, and writers Mohammad Mokhtari and Mohammad Jafar Pouyandeh in the autumn of 1998.

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

The hardline judge presiding over the military court ordered the trials to be held behind closed doors, citing national security concerns. Only scant details of the proceedings have emerged.

"We veterans of the (1980-88 Iran-Iraq) war, and the true Partizans of God plead with the leader to take a stance in the case of the murders," said the statement by members of the Basij militia, an offshoot of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, and the more informal "Partizans."

Their statement could signal a rift in their organisations by a faction angry at the alleged torture of their mentors and its subsequent cover-up by their nominal "allies."


Emami, the most senior government agent arrested in connection with the killings, died in custody after drinking hair remover. Many Iranians, reformists and hardliners, question the official coroner's verdict of suicide.

The statement points fingers at Mohammad Niazi, a cleric now in charge of the military courts, and Ali-Asghar Hejazi, a senior cleric at Khamenei's office for helping orchestrate a cover-up.

Khamenei had earlier said in a widely publicised prayer sermon that foreign powers carried out the murders in order to defame the Iranian government.

Niazi's four interrogators, accused of torture and preparing a detailed 80-page account linking intelligence agents to Israel, were under Khamenei's protection and one was saved from arrest by the direct intervention of Hejazi, the statement said.

All confessions had been videotaped and were to have been broadcast by state television in what would have been an attempt to further weaken the intelligence ministry which has promised reform under embattled President Mohammad Khatami.

Reformers say many of the tortured suspects were only released after much lobbying by the intelligence minister and Khatami's threat to resign.

The moderate Khatami swept to power in 1997 promising to ensure freedom of speech and the rule of law, but with new elections looming in June has little to show for his efforts.


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