Iranian Reportedly Charged After Releasing Material on Mass Execution of Dissidents

By Patrick Goodenough | September 6, 2016 | 4:40 AM EDT

Rifle in hand, Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri addresses a large rally at Tehran University in November 1979, in front of an image of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Nominated to succeed Khomeini, Montazeri later fell foul of the clerical establishment. (AP Photo, File)

(CNSNews.com) – The son of an Iranian cleric once in line to be supreme leader has reportedly been charged with acting against national security interests by releasing material from his late father that denounces senior Iranian figures for the mass killings of dissidents almost 30 years ago.

After interrogation at a religious court in Qom, Ahmad Montazeri was released on bail of almost $23,000, and told to reappear on Wednesday, according to a report by the exiled opposition group, National Council of Resistance of Iran/People’s Mujahedeen Organization of Iran (NCRI/MEK).

Last month, Montazeri caused a stir by releasing an audio recording of a 1988 meeting between his father, Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, and members of a so-called “death panel” charged with carrying out supreme leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s mass execution decree.

Montazeri had been in line to succeed Khomeini, but his defiance of the regime led to his expulsion and years of house arrest. His death in 2009 came amid opposition protests following the disputed re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

NCRI/MEK has a particular interest in the case, as many of the thousands of people reported to have been executed were imprisoned and already-sentenced members of the MEK, an opposition group dedicated to overthrowing the regime, long designated by the U.S. government as a foreign terrorist organization. (It renounced violence in 2001 and was delisted as a FTO in 2012.)

One of those on the “death panel” – and at the meeting featured on the audio file – was Mostafa Pourmohammadi, an official who has served in several cabinet positions over the years and was controversially appointed Minister of Justice by “moderate” President Hasan Rouhani in 2013. In 1988 he was the intelligence and security ministry’s representative at Tehran’s notorious Evin prison.

Others at the 1988 meeting were Hossein-Ali Nayyeri, a judge who today heads a supreme disciplinary court for judges; and Ebrahim Raeesi, a deputy prosecutor general who later served as attorney general, and earlier this year was appointed custodian of one of Iran’s most important endowments.

Montazeri’s views on the 1988 executions were known well before his son released the file – he wrote about the issue in a memoir published in 2000.

But his son’s decision to make the audio file public – on a website run by followers of Grand Ayatollah Montazeri – brought the issue to a much wider audience.

Although the file was taken down shortly after being posted, at the orders of the intelligence and security ministry, its release has brought new calls for an inquiry and for accountability.

On the file, Montazeri is heard warning that the mass execution without trial of the dissidents will bring international condemnation and the judgment of history. He referred to the killings as “the biggest crime in the history of the Islamic Republic.”

According to published accounts, over the summer of 1988 victims were questioned about their political affiliation, religious views and piety, and willingness to recant and inform on other dissidents. Executions took place by hanging, and bodies were buried in unmarked graves.

The NCRI is planning to hold a press conference in Paris on Tuesday where it says new information on the 1988 killings will be made known.

NCRI leader Maryam Rajavi has launched a campaign calling for the release of information about the executions, including the names and burial places of the victims, the identities of those responsible, and for the perpetrators to be brought to justice.

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow

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