Revealed: role of a president in the murder of his
By Robert Fisk in Tehran
The Independent (London)
8 March 2000
In the wave of half-freedoms that have followed last month's pro-reformist
elections in Iran, the dark and sinister political role of ex-president
Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani once the most powerful man in the Islamic
Republic is at last being revealed in Tehran.
Mr Rafsanjani, who first disclosed the Iran-Contra scandal, is being
linked to at least six senior Iranian government officials who, during
his presidency, ordered the secret execution of more than 80 dissidents,
intellectuals and criminals. The ex-president, it now transpires, also
appointed members of his own family to high positions in the lucrative
oil ministry in Iran.
As the political star of Mr Rafsanjani falls through the firmament so
the revelations about his 10-year presidency and its nepotism are being
uncovered. The names of at least seven men with whom he dealt some
of whom are said to have issued "fatwas" ordering the death of
dozens of innocent Iranians during Mr Rafsanjani's rule are known
in Iran but have never been published before: they include Ali Fallahian,
former head of intelligence, Ali Razini, who was head of judiciary powers
in Tehran he is now a member of the "special" clergy court
and Mustafa Pourmahamadi, the former deputy intelligence minister
in charge of international affairs.
The "death squad" committee also included Ruhollah Hosseinian,
who is currently head of Iran's "documentation centre", two ayatollahs
said to have signed a decree ordering the murder of "apostates"
and Said Emami, the ex-deputy intelligence minister in charge of
"operational" affairs. Mr Emami was found dead murdered
with a potassium injection while in prison for allegedly ordering
the murders of intellectuals during the presidency of Mr Rafsanjani's successor,
Many in Tehran believe Mr Rafsanjani was himself a member of the "killer"
committee. The murder victims include the translator and writer Saidi Sirjani,
killed by injection in 1994, Ahmed Mirallai, another writer who was knifed
to death, Ahmed Taffozoli, who died in a car "accident", and
Ibrahim Zalzade, a journalist also knifed. Also among the murder victims
was a middle-aged woman, Fateme Ghaemmaghami, a mother of three.
At least three Sunni Muslim clerics were liquidated. An Armenian Orthodox
priest was killed after his name appeared on the intelligence ministry
Iranian journalists have already been asking what Mr Rafsanjani knew
about the "fatwas" for the execution of intellectuals, although
The Independent is the first paper to print the names of those known to
be on the execution committee. Akbar Gangi, the most prominent investigative
journalist in Tehran, has written a book about the committee without
giving names called The Dungeon of Ghosts, in which he refers to
another cleric as "the éminence grise". Already Mr Gangi
has received death threats by phone and fax. "My friends have said
to me that the only way of protecting myself is to give an interview,"
he said. "The information I have about the murders is exact and very
sensitive 90 to 100 people were killed."
Equally earnest if less grave questions are being asked about Mr Rafsanjani's
family. His son Yasser, it is clear, worked in the procurement section
of the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) while also running a private
company connected to NIOC. Mr Rafsanjani's nephew Ali was a deputy minister
of oil while another son, Mehdi, was employed in the national gas company,
Stories of Mr Rafsanjani's wealth have spread throughout Iran and were
one reason for his failure to gain more than 25 per cent of the vote in
last month's elections. He spends several weeks a year in a villa north
of Tehran where gazelles graze amid parkland and hills guarded by special