Closed Door Trial Names Accused Murderer in Killing of Iranian Dissidents
The closed military trial of 17 Iranian secret service agents accused of killing leading dissidents concluded its second session Monday by publicly identifying, for the first time, the name of the case's main defendant.
"The principal accused, named Mostafa Kazemi, also known as Mussavi, was called to the stand where he answered questions from the Judge Mohammad-Reza Aghighi and offered a defense," the military court indicated in an official statement.
It added the trial would resume next Saturday. No further details were provided.
Reza Zarandi, spokesman for the military courts, said that the trial would continue to be conducted in secret "for reasons of national security and public order". None of the other defendants has been identified publicly.
During the trial's opening session Saturday, the judge ordered the arrest of three of the defendants, naming them and two other suspects as the main hands in the dissident murders which occurred in November 1998.
The man named as the mastermind behind the assassinations, Said Emami, was reported to have committed suicide in prison by drinking a bottle of hair remover last June.
He is being tried posthumously by the court as the 18th suspect.
Secular nationalist leader Dariush Foruhar and his wife Parvaneh were found stabbed to death in their apartment in November 1998, followed within weeks by writers Majid Sharif, Mohammad Mokhtari and Mohammad Pouyandeh.
The three outspoken writers were well known for their calls for greater freedom of expression in Islamic Iran, and the string of murders sparked widespread outrage and heightened political tension in the country.
The families of the five victims, reportedly frustrated by the secrecy surrounding the two-year investigation, are boycotting the trial in protest and last week announced they had fired their lawyers.
The lawyer for two of the victim's families, Nasser Zarafshan, is currently in jail after saying secret service agents had murdered more than five dissidents on the orders of Muslim clerics.
Authorities in January 1999 announced that a network of "rogue" secret agents had carried out the murders but had done so without the knowledge of their superiors in the intelligence ministry.
The killings led reformist President Mohammad Khatami to commission his own investigation, amid efforts by his administration to revamp the conservative-dominated court system.
Separately, Mohammad-Reza Khatami, the president's brother and the leader of Iran's largest reform party, called Monday for the resignation of the head of Tehran's high court, Hojatoleslam Abbasali Alizadeh, for asking Tehran judges to put reformist members of Iran's Majlis or parliament on trial, including Khatami -- TEHRAN (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)