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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 the crimes."

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 said.

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 said.


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