Wednesday, December 05, 2007


Appeal to UN human rights official over nine-year-old murders of journalists and intellectuals

Iran 4.12.2007
Appeal to UN human rights official over nine-year-old murders of journalists and intellectuals

Reporters Without Borders today called on the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, to act over the unresolved murders of five Iranian journalists and intellectuals, nine years after the killings.

Although 15 Iranian intelligence agents were eventually tried and found guilty of the 1998 murders those behind the killings were never prosecuted.

“An Iranian parliamentary commission concluded that high-ranking figures were implicated in the cases but it was impossible to confront them with it,” the worldwide press freedom organisation said.

“These killings caused an outcry and many people still hold commemorations of them, despite the efforts of the authorities to stop them being held,” the organisation said.

“It is essential that the UN takes a stand to give new hope to the families of the victims that justice will be done one day and those who ordered these murders, will perhaps be put on trial, however much influence they may have.”

Leftist political activist, Pirouz Davani (photo), editor of the newspaper Pirouz disappeared at the end of August 1998. His body was never found. He was an active campaigner for human rights and democracy in Iran.

In its 28 November 1998 edition, the newspaper Kar-e-Karagar referred to rumours about the “execution” of Davani. These rumours were confirmed at the end of the November 2000 by Akbar Ganji, a journalist on Sobh-é-Emrouz who was investigating the case. He accused the prosecutor-general of the special court for the clergy, Mohseni Ejehi of responsibility for the murder.

Two leading figures in the liberal opposition, Darioush Forouhar (photo), a lawyer and president of the Iran Nation Party (INP), and his wife Parvaneh Forouhar, were murdered at their home in Tehran on 22 November. Both had been openly critical of the culture of repression in Iran. The INP was the first Iranian party to call for the abolition of the death penalty.

Three other journalists and writers, Majid Sharif, Mohamad Mokhtari and Mohamad Jafar Pouyandeh, went missing a few days after the couple’s murder. Their bodies were found in a southern suburb of Tehran between 25 November and 12 December. Two of them showed signs of strangulation.

After proceedings lasting more than four years, the Iranian courts in January 2001 found 15 intelligence ministry agents guilty and sentenced them to prison, three of them were sentenced to death, which verdict was upheld by the Supreme Court.

Neither the families nor human rights bodies were satisfied with the verdict, because those who instigated the killings were never brought to book. The families complained of the inadequacy of the investigation. “Families of the victims were driven by a deep sense of injustice to take the case to the UN Human Rights Commission at the end of November 2002,” the organisation said. The move followed a rally of 5,000 people marking the anniversary of the killings.

The lawyer for the families, Nasser Zarafshan, had been arrested and sentenced to five years in prison on 7 August 2002 for “divulging aspects of the case file".

Zarafshan has now told Reporters Without Borders that as far as he was concerned the case was not closed. “The investigation did not get to the bottom of it and significant parts of the file went missing during the trial,” he said.

Darioush and Parvaneh Forouhar’s daughter, Parsto Forouhar, said, “The goal of the Iranian courts was not to establish the truth and the trial was only a smokescreen to conceal it.” She is still waiting for a response from the UN human rights body, which until now has simply referred the families back to the Iranian courts.


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