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Iranian military court to probe murders of dissidents

TEHRAN, Dec 31 (AFP) - An Iranian military court is to investigate the recent killings of two writers as well as a nationalist dissident and his wife, the official news agency IRNA reported Thursday.

The agency, quoting an unnamed spokesman for the military court, said the general court that had originally taken up the cases sent them to the military tribunal after deciding a special investiagtion was needed.

But the spokesman stressed that the cases "have nothing to do with the armed forces or the police."

The cases concern the fatal stabbing of secular nationalist leader Daryush Foruhar and his wife, Parvaneh, on October 22. The killings were followed by the kidnapping and murder of two secular writers, Mohammad Mokhtari and Mohammad Pouyandeh, in early December.

Another intellectual, Majid Sharif, was also found dead under mysterious circumstances around the same time, but the authorities said he had died of a heart attack.

Iranian authorities have condemned the chain of killings and blamed them on a "foreign enemy plot" aimed at undermining the Islamic regime.

But a member of Foruhar's Iranian Nation's Party this week alleged that "branches of Iranian intelligence services" were involved in the murders.

The authorities have pledged to investigate the killings and a number of arrests were announced earlier, but police have not divulged any information.

The military spokesman said the court will inform the public on any progress made in the investigation.

Meanwhile several liberal opposition leaders sumbitted an open letter to President Mohammad Khatami on Thursday demanding information on the results of the investigation, IRNA reported.

Among the signatories were former foreign minister and the head of Iran's Freedom Movement Ebrahim Yazdi and political ally Hashem Sabaghian, it said, citing an official in Khatami's office.

The official recalled that the president has already assigned a special team to investigate the "suspicious murders," pledging that information on the outcome of the probe will be made public "if they don't hurt the proceedings."

Around 300 liberal dissidnets, academics and journalists plan to gather at a Tehran mosque on Thursday to commemorate the 40th day of the death of Foruhar and his wife.


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