Suspect in Iran serial murder case says not guilty
TEHRAN, Jan 4 (Reuters) - A defendant in Iran's serial murder trial
has denied active participation in the murders of dissidents in 1998, newspapers
reported on Thursday.
Iraj Amouzegar, the 11th of 18 defendants to stand trial, is the only
one so far to deny involvement in the string of murders that shocked Iran,
the newspaper Hayat-e No reported. High-ranking intelligence ministry agents
are among those being tried by Tehran's military court.
Amuzegar told the court on Wednesday that he had "been informed"
of the murders but had not carried out any of them, the daily said. Other
newspapers carried similar reports.
The hardline judge presiding over the military court ordered the trials
to be held behind closed doors, citing national security concerns. The
next session will be on Saturday.
The defendants are on trial for four cold-blooded murders carried out
in autumn 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 most senior government agent arrested in connection with the killings,
deputy Intelligence Minister Saeed Emami, died in custody after drinking
hair remover. Many question the official coroner's verdict of suicide.
Two pro-reform investigative journalists and a former interior minister
have said responsibility for the murders goes much higher. Several senior
clerics in the establishment are implicated in the conspiracy, they said.
All three have been put in jail and the judiciary, dominated by hardliners
close to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has vowed to prosecute
anyone else making unauthorised revelations.
Victims' families and their lawyers are boycotting the proceedings in
protest against the removal of evidence and the restriction of the prosecution
to only four murders.
The affair has not helped embattled President Mohammad Khatami, who
swept to power in 1997 promising to ensure freedom of speech and the rule