Former Iranian Judge Makes Claims About Mass Executions Ahead Of Verdict In Iranian Official's Case In Sweden
By RFE/RL's Radio Farda July 11, 2022
Hossein-Ali Nayeri, the former deputy chief justice of Iran's Supreme Court, claims that mass executions carried out in 1988 were necessary to eliminate conspirators plotting against the government.
Nayeri made the statement in an interview with Iran's Islamic Revolution Document Center, a website that collects documents related to the 1979 revolution.
Nayeri was named as the head of the so-called Death Committee, which carried out the executions, according to witnesses who have testified in the case of Hamid Nouri in Sweden.
The witnesses also say Nayeri accused the people who were executed of preparing "new conspiracies" before they were put to death.
Nouri, a former Iranian official, is on trial in Stockholm in connection with the mass executions, which eliminated thousands of political prisoners in the summer of 1988 over a three-day period.
The Islamic Revolution Document Center's interview with Nayeri was published on July 9 as the Swedish judicial system prepared to issue a verdict in Nouri's case.
The Death Committee was a four-person group assigned to carry out a fatwa issued by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of the Islamic republic at the time, to execute thousands of political and ideological prisoners who were serving time in prison.
Nayeri, who served as deputy chief of the Supreme Court at the time, accused them of creating "organizational relations" and "new organizations" inside the prison, as well as "obtaining information from outside the prison."
"The atmosphere of the prison was in their hands and therefore new conspiracies were at work. It wasn't like they just wanted to spend their days in prison," Nayeri said in the interview, which according to the document center was the first time he has spoken publicly about the executions.
Nayeri also accused the people who were executed of "childish stubbornness" and of trying to cause "economic damage to the system" by cutting telephone wires and breaking light bulbs.
Khomeini's fatwa initially targeted members of the Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO), a militant leftist group regarded by some as a cult that for years was considered a terrorist organization by the United States and Britain.
The MKO participated in the Islamic Revolution that toppled the shah in 1979, but it was soon branded a threat by the new clerical establishment.
Through his fatwa, Khomeini paved the way for the immediate execution of Iranian prisoners deemed loyal to the MKO, many of whom had been rounded up for even the slightest perceived affiliation. The fatwa eventually encompassed all left-wing opponents of the regime, including communists, Trotskyists, Marxist-Leninists, and others.
The Iranian government has never acknowledged the mass executions, nor provided any information about the number of prisoners killed.
The rights watchdog Amnesty International has estimated that 4,500 people were executed, while the MKO places the number at around 30,000. Many of the victims were buried in secret.
Nayeri said there were "special conditions" in Iran in the 1980s and the state of the country was "critical."
"If it wasn't for Imam [Khomeini]'s determination, maybe we wouldn't have this security at all," he said in the interview. "Maybe the situation would have been different. Perhaps the Islamic republic would not have remained at all."
Given the lack of action inside the country, Human Rights Watch has said foreign courts should take up the cause and prosecute Iranian officials implicated in the killings, just as Sweden is doing with Nouri.
Nouri is charged with international war crimes and human rights abuses in connection with the murders of more than 100 people at a prison in Karaj.
Swedish prosecutors are seeking life imprisonment for Nouri, who has been held in custody in Sweden since his arrest in Stockholm in November 2019. The Stockholm District Court has said that a verdict in the case is expected on July 14.
With writing and reporting by Ardeshir Tayebi
Copyright (c) 2022. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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