Paris (CNSNews.com) – Iran’s supreme leader and a prominent former president – who is sometimes described as a “moderate’ in the Iranian context – are the latest senior Iranians to be accused of involvement in the mass executions of imprisoned dissidents almost three decades ago.
The National Council of Resistance of Iran/People’s Mujahedeen Organization of Iran (NCRI/MEK), an exiled opposition group, held a press conference in Paris Tuesday to make public the names of prominent Iranians allegedly involved in the killings.
It said supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and former President Hashemi Rafsanjani were directly linked to the executions.
The unpunished killings returned to the public eye last month when the son of a senior ayatollah, who dies in 2009, released an audio recording of a meeting between his father and members of one of the “death commissions” that oversaw the executions.
In the recording released by Ahmad Montazeri, Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri expressed his strong opposition to the executions, carried out in the late 1980s during the tenure of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
“Killing is the wrong way to resist against ideas,” Montazeri said in the 1988 clip. “It is in my opinion the greatest crime committed during the Islamic Revolution for which history will condemn us.”
Montazeri had been nominated as Khomeini’s successor until falling out with the clerical regime over his criticisms. After Khomeini’s death the supreme leader post went to Khamenei, a former president, who holds it to this day.
During Tuesday’s press conference Mohammad Mohaddessin, chairman of the NCRI’s foreign affairs committee, said the executions of political prisoners occurred mostly in the weeks after a fatwa (religious edict) was issued by Khomeini in 1988.
“A death commission was created in Tehran and in 10 other Iranian provinces to conduct the fatwa,” he said. “Until now only the names of the members of the death commission in Tehran had been exposed, since Khomeini himself appointed them.”
“Now we have more names of members involved in the massacre and we are making them public.”
Mohaddessin said they included Khamenei – president and a key regime decision-maker at the time – as well as Rafsanjani, who at the time was parliamentary speaker, but went on to serve two terms as president, from 1989-1997. (Since then, Rafsanjani has headed two of the regime’s most important institutions – the Assembly of Experts, a body of top religious scholars which nominates the supreme leader, and the Expediency Council, a body that advises the supreme leader. He still holds the latter post.)
Another prominent Iranian implicated in the executions was Ali Fallahian, who at the time was a deputy intelligence minister, then went on to become intelligence minister during the Rafsanjani presidency and later also served on the Assembly of Experts.
(Fallahian is one of half a dozen senior Iranians wanted by Argentina in connection with the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires that cost 85 lives and wounded 300 more.)
President Hasan Rouhani’s minister of justice, Mostafa Pourmohammadi, was also implicated in the “death commissions,” according to information released earlier and corroborated by the Montazeri audio recording.
Most of those killed in the campaign were reported to have been imprisoned supporters of the NCRI/MEK.
Among the victims, said Mohaddessin, 62 pregnant women and 789 minors, as young as 14-15 years at the time of their arrest, were massacred and secretly buried in mass graves.
Mohaddessin expressed the NCRI/MEK’s hope that the next U.S. president would have a different policy towards Tehran in the light of the revelations about the 1980s executions.
“We really hope that the U.S. attitude will change and that next administration will be more determined against Rouhani’s regime,” he said. “President Obama conducted a politic of moderation toward Iran but it did not work out.”
“This regime is more brutal than the former ones,” Mohaddessin charged. “Just have a look at its involvement in the Middle East. Look at what is happening in Iraq, Syria and other countries in the region where Tehran is deeply involved.”
William Bourdon, the NCRI’s French lawyer, voiced the hope that the publication of the new information would draw the attention of the international community.
“It is time that the United Nations, for instance starts, looking at the 1988 massacre by the Iranian regime,” he said. “And the truth about these crimes is now known worldwide.”
“We are now calling upon the international community in order to take actions against the Tehran regime,” Bourdon said. He argued that there was enough proof of the involvement of Iran’s highest authorities to lead other countries act as well.
Khomeini’s 1988 fatwa targeted members of the MEK, whom he described as “treacherous monafeqin [hypocrites] who do not believe in Islam.”
Ahmad Montazeri has been interrogated and reportedly charged with national security offenses after publishing the explosive audio file last month on a website run by supporters of his late father.
(Patrick Goodenough contributed to this story.)