Top Iran Judge to Challenge Murder Accusations by Leading Journalist
The head of a powerful Tehran clerical court said Monday he would defend himself against recent allegations by a top journalist implicating him in the 1998 killing of a communist militant in Iran.
Gholam-Hossein Mohseni Ejei, the head of the conservative-run Special Court for Clergy (SCC) said he would "soon" respond to the accusation made by jailed journalist Akbar Ganji in late November.
Ganji, currently on trial for participating in an "anti-Islamic" conference in Berlin earlier this year, told the revolutionary court in Tehran that Ejei had given the order for the assassination of Piruz Davani, who disappeared in August 1998 and is presumed to be dead.
"My answer to Ganji is the verse from the holy Muslim book, the Koran, which says: Every time a wicked person comes to you with any news, verify its truth (first)," Ejei said, cited by the state news agency IRNA.
During the hearing on November 30 at the revolutionary tribunal, Ganji also accused Ali Fallahian, a former intelligence minister considered close to former president Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, of being a key figure in other killings which shocked Iran late in 1998.
He also put much of the blame on the "Haghani circle", a group of clerics based in the holy city of Qom headed by Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, which reformists claim to have infiltrated the judiciary and other centres of power.
Nationalist political leader Dariush Forouhar and his wife Parvaneh were assassinated in their Tehran apartment in late 1998, shortly followed by three writers who fought vigorously for the freedom of expression -- Majid Sharif, Mohammad Mokhtari and Mohammad Pouyandeh.
The judiciary said in mid-November that 18 people -- three principals and 15 accomplices -- would be tried for the killings, adding that the judge of the revolutionary court would decide whether the trial would be open.
Authorities blamed the killings on "rogue" agents of the intelligence ministry, which acknowledged blame but denied that its top officials had any connection to the murders.
The alleged mastermind, Said Emami, was reported to have committed suicide in prison in June 1999.
The trial begins December 23 at Tehran's military court -- TEHRAN (AFP)
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