Intelligence Agents' Trial Inconclusive
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New York, January 29, 2001 (Human Rights Watch) - 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
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
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