Three Intelligence Agents Sentenced to Death in Iran\'s Dissidents Case
Three Iranian intelligence agents were sentenced to death by a military court Saturday, and five others were given life terms for the murders of dissidents in 1998, reported the Iranian News Agency (IRNA).
Three of the 18 defendants were acquitted, and the remainder received jail terms ranging from 10 years to two-and-a-half years following the two-week trial, held behind closed doors "for security reasons," IRNA said.
The verdicts could be appealed to the supreme court, IRNA said, quoting trial judge, Mohammad Reza Aghighi.
All but two of the agents charged in the closed-door trial had reportedly admitted to some role in the killings, according to official accounts of the proceedings.
The intelligence ministry blamed the assassinations on a network of "rogue" agents but denied they had been carried out with the knowledge or authorization of top officials.
Secular nationalist leader, Dariush Foruhar, and his wife Parvaneh were found stabbed to death in their Tehran apartment in November 1998.
Within weeks, liberal writers, Majid Sharif, Mohammad Mokhtari and Mohammad-Jafar Pouyandeh were also killed.
Sharif's murder has not been part of the trial, according to official reports.
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.
The case has been dogged by controversy, particularly after the man named as the mastermind behind the killings, Said Emami, reportedly committed suicide in prison after drinking a bottle of hair remover.
IRNA said the military court sentenced to death Ali (Reza) Roshani, Mahmoud Jafarzadeh and Ali (Mostafa) Mohseni, while Seyed Mostafa Kazemi, Mehrdad Alikhani, Hamid Rassouli, Mohammad Azizi and Morteza Fallah were jailed for life.
The other sentences were 10 years for Khosro Barati, eight years and six months for Mostafa Hashemi, eight years for Abolfazl Moslemi, seven years each for Mohammad Hossein Asna Ashar and Ali Safaee-Pour, six years for Asghar Sayyah and two years and six months for Ali Nazeri, said the agency.
Morteza Haqani, Iraj Amouzegar and Alireza Akbarian were acquitted, IRNA said.
The families of the victims boycotted the trial in protest at the secrecy surrounding the case, which reformists close to President Mohammad Khatami have called a "big test" for the conservative-dominated courts.
The court said it was trying the men in camera for reasons of national security and a lawyer representing the families of Mokhtari and Pouyandeh was briefly arrested after alleging the murders were ordered by religious decree.
"Who can guarantee that an open court would not provide information to enemies outside the country?" Aghighi said at the beginning of the trial, according to the agency -- Albawaba.com
© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)