Khatami Brother Questioned in Iran In Reported Plot
By Geneive Abdo
International Herald Tribune
July 20, 2000
TEHRAN - A brother of President Mohammed Khatami was summoned to court
on Wednesday in a growing controversy over allegations that a vigilante
had confessed to conspiring with senior clerics and security forces to
attack leading reformers.
Mohammed Reza Khatami, who is deputy speaker of Parliament, was questioned
along with a fellow pro-refom legislator, Mohsen Mirdamadi.
Two Iranian lawyers are already in prison for having allegedly made
and distributed a videotape featuring the vigilante's confession. A member
of the New York-based Human Rights Watch is also charged in distribution
of the tape.
The videotape has not been shown in public, but a transcript is available
on the Internet and copies of the confession have been circulated throughout
In the tape, a former member of the Ansar-e Hezbollah asserts that the
extremist group had been permitted to disrupt public meetings, attack and
beat up reformist activists and kill a former vice president, Abdollah
Nouri, a powerful reform cleric who is in prison.
Amir Farshad Ebrahimi, the Ansar member, charges that powerful conservatives,
including senior ayatollahs and politicians, approved of the plans.
He said the Ansar was funded by traditional bazaar merchants, known
also to also support the conservative clerical establishment.
The Iranian judiciary, controlled by conservatives, has stepped in to
defend the clerics and to discredit the reformers' accusations. The Tehran
judiciary issued a statement this month saying that Mr. Ebrahimi had been
coerced by the reformers into making the videotape.
The scandal became public when court officials said Shirin Ebadi, a
human rights lawyer, and Mohsen Rahami, a lawyer and political activist,
had conspired to make the film along with Elahe Sharifpur Hicks, a representative
of Human Rights Watch, who was in Iran for one month in May.
Human Rights Watch has denied the charges in a letter to the judiciary
chief, Mahmoud Hashemi-Shahroudi.
Mr. Ebadi and Mr. Rahami went on trial behind closed doors Saturday
and remain in prison. A translator for foreign journalists is also in jail
for allegedly circulating the tape.
It is impossible to verify the account provided by the Ansar member.
But there is growing evidence that a loose coalition of clerics, security
agents and extremists who strive for more political power have concocted
such plots in recent years.
A key adviser to President Khatami was shot and seriously wounded March
12 by a network of Islamic extremists.
Newspapers reported that instructions were given to kill the adviser,
Saeed Hajjarian, at a religious center in the district of Shahr-e Rey in
Five men were convicted and sentenced to terms of three to 15 years
in prison and three men were acquitted. Mr. Hajjarian survived the attack
but is partly paralyzed.
In May, a member of the elite Revolutionary Guards and also a presidential
bodyguard was arrested after he tried to persuade two senior clerics to
issue an edict allowing him to kill President Khatami.
The plot was foiled when the son of one of the ayatollahs informed the