Ayatollah Montazeri’s Son Legally Defends Releasing Audio File of Father Denouncing 1988 Mass Execution of Prisoners
Ahmad Montazeri said in court that the Islamic Republic should publicly investigate the issue.
Ahmad Montazeri, the son of late Grand Ayatollah Hosseinali Montazeri—the once successor to Iran’s first supreme leader—has been charged with “acting against national security” and “revealing state secrets” for publishing an audio recording of his father denouncing the Islamic Republic’s mass execution of prisoners in 1988.
Montazeri represented himself without a defense lawyer in the Special Clerics Court in Qom—in a trial that lasted four hours—on October 19, 2016 because he was prevented from freely choosing his own lawyer. He told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran that he has not broken the law, and simply wants the Islamic Republic to publicly investigate the issue.
“The court insisted on keeping the details secret, but what was clear was that I was charged with ‘acting against national security,’ and I defended myself,” said Montazeri in an interview. “I said I had no such intention and I did not do such a thing. There is no law that says publishing such an audio file is an act against the state.”
Added Montazeri: “They insisted that I had revealed state secrets, but we don’t have a law about revealing state secrets. What we do have is a law concerning government secrets. I didn’t have any government secrets to reveal. Moreover, what they say I revealed was already published in [my father’s] memoirs. Therefore, repeating what was published 15 years ago is not a revelation. So I revealed nothing that was a secret.”
“What I’m insisting on is that eventually the state manage and settle the issue about the 1988 executions instead of trying to hide it,” continued Montazeri. “If the Islamic Republic is transparent about it, and forms a truth commission, as suggested by (Member of Parliament) Ali Motahhari, and possibly rectifies any wrongdoings, it would be a big step in restoring the greatness of the Islamic Republic.”
The verdict has yet to be announced.
In the 40-minute audio file Ahmad Montazeri posted on his father’s official website on August 9, 2016, the grand ayatollah described the executions in the summer of 1988 as “the greatest crime in the Islamic Republic of Iran.” At the time, Hosseinali Montazeri, who was heir apparent to Supreme Leader Rouhollah Khomeini, told the four-man tribunal, which had ruled to execute an estimated 4,000-5,000 prisoners, that he did not want Khomeini to be judged by history as a “bloodthirsty, cruel and brazen figure” for executing political prisoners en masse, and warned the tribunal’s members that they would be remembered as cruel criminals.
The audio file dates back to August 15, 1988, the day members of the tribunal —referred to as the “Death Committee” by the victims’ families— met with the grand ayatollah to gain his support for the executions. The tribunal included then-Judge Hosseinali Nayeri, then-Tehran Prosecutor Morteza Eshraghi, then-Deputy Prosecutor General Ebrahim Raeesi and the Intelligence Ministry’s representative in Evin Prison at the time, Mostafa Pourmohammadi.
Following his refusal to support the executions, leading members of the Islamic Republic, including Khomeini, sidelined Montazeri, who died in 2009. Now his son is being persecuted while Pourmohammadi is Minister of Justice in President Hassan Rouhani’s cabinet. Another tribunal member, Raeesi, not only heads Astan Quds Razavi, one of the largest and richest Shiite shrine-based religious institutions in Iran, but is also a rumored successor to Iran’s current supreme leader, Ali Khamenei.
“Today’s trial (on October 19) followed several interrogation sessions,” Montazeri told the Campaign. “The prosecutor’s representative was present in court and the trial lasted four hours. They said they would inform me of the outcome, meaning my sentence.”
“The Special Clerics Court in Qom gave me a list of 42 lawyers I could choose for my defense, but I could not find anyone acceptable on the list. I consulted with friends and nobody knew these individuals, or they said the listed lawyers were not suitable for a trial like mine. So I preferred to show up in court without a lawyer because the court would not accept any reputable, free-thinking lawyer with the courage to take on a case like this.”
In the audio file, Grand Ayatollah Montazeri, who died in 2009, also accused Khomeini’s son, Ahmad Khomeini, of instigating the 1988 executions: “The Intelligence Ministry promoted the [plan for the mass execution of prisoners] and invested in it, and then three or four years ago Ahmad Agha came along and said the Mojahedin-e-Khalq (MEK—a militant Marxist-Islamist opposition party that bombed the headquarters of Khomeini’s party in 1981) should all be executed, including those who read their newspapers, publications and pamphlets. This was their thinking. After the [MEK] attacked us, [the Intelligence Ministry] thought it was a good time for someone to convince the imam [Khomeini] to agree to [the executions] and got a written order from him to carry them out. I don’t know what this will lead to or what will happen in the future.”