I am writing to you in order to let you know about the latest developments affecting the investigation process into the political murders of my parents, Dariush and Parvaneh Forouhar, both opposition politicians in Iran. The assassinations were carried out in the autumn of 1998 in Iran.
I would like to describe to you the disastrous situation in which we, the relatives of the victims, have become involved in as a result of these developments. The sustained protests against the series of political assassinations of autumn 1998, which claimed other intellectuals alongside my parents, as well as the consternation at the investigation into the crimes both domestically and abroad have imbued the whole process with a symbolic character that calls the situation of human rights in Iran into question.
Shortly after the felonies, and under massive public pressure, the Ministry of Information of the Islamic Republic of Iran admitted to its involvement in the murders. As a result of this, the fires of hope of uncovering years of systematic power abuse of dissidents by the state authority, that had claimed innumerable victims over the years, were stoked. The further investigative proceedings however did not fulfil these hopes in any way. In fact the opposite occurred, with arrests and repressive measures taken against those who had campaigned for the investigation.
As you already know, the investigations conducted by the Military Prosecuting Service into the backgrounds, perpetrators and the organisation of the crimes left out several important points and clearly show cover-ups on the part of the investigating authority. This is why we, together with our lawyers, spoke out at the beginning of the legal trial against such inadequate investigative conclusions. Irrespective of our protests, the court held the proceedings on the given date, the 23rd of December 2000. They were held behind closed doors.
The court delivered sentences, among them three death sentences for the officials held responsible for committing the murders, on the 27th of January 2001 that ignored the political status of the murders as many had expected. The officials, who prevented the victims’ struggles by holding them down to be killed, received sentences of up to fifteen years imprisonment.
The culprits’ statements, which claimed that murdering intellectuals had been part of their duties at the Ministry of Information for years, were never checked. The incumbent Minister of Information at the time of the murders never appeared before a court although the perpetrators incriminated him as the boss.
As the murder cases were not treated by the court as political, but rather as private crimes according to the verdict, the enforcement of the death penalty lay in our hands. The immediate family members had to decide upon the enforcement of the death penalty, by the decree of Islamic law.
We had now been placed in an impossible situation, faced with making a decision that we hadn’t been looking for.
Our motivation for pushing on the investigation was not based on any desire for revenge that wanted the guilty parties to pay for their crimes with their lives. We had asked for a constitutional hearing process that should have exposed the truth behind these crimes in its investigations.
We presented our convictions and situation in a statement that was published in the media on the 31st of January 2001. We, the Forouhar Family, officially rejected the implementation of the death penalty in a letter to the court. We wanted to ensure in time that no death sentences would be carried out in our name.
The court passed over the entire file for review.
On the 18th of August 2001 it was officially announced that the Court had overturned the verdicts and had declared the proceedings as inadequate. Our efforts to obtain further information about the reasons for these new assessments were unsuccessful. I personally was sent repeatedly back and forth between the Court of Justice and the Military Prosecution Service without obtaining any information regarding the status of the investigation whatsoever. Our attempts to reinforce our protest with a parliamentary appeal remained unsuccessful, despite the repeated promises of support from parliamentarians who expressed their criticism at the work of the judiciary in this case. Dr. Zarafshan, one of our family’s lawyers, spoke out about this situation in public interviews, and was put before a court as a consequence of his actions. He now faces harsh penalties.
He has been charged with possession of alcohol and a firearm. His statements in connection with the investigation into the political assassinations of autumn 1998 have led to him being accused of being involved in “activities damaging to the country’s domestic security”.
On the 27th of May 2002 new verdicts were made public in a statement from the Military Court. Up until this time we had had no idea whatsoever that the Military Court had re-opened the proceedings. In the Military Court’s official statement our rejection of the death penalty was represented as forgiveness on our part. The death sentence had been changed to ten years imprisonment. The prison sentence for the three murdering henchmen, who had previously been sentenced to up to fifteen years, had been reduced to three to four years, which meant that they would be set free around this point in time. The Military Court justified the new verdicts exclusively with our rejection of the death penalty. The court thereby placed the onus of liability for its verdicts on us, the family members.
My brother and I clarified our position in a public statement on the 28th of May 2002. In this piece and in subsequent interviews we were adamant that:
- we had officially rejected the death penalty because we felt committed to the political and moral principles of our parents. Dariush and Parvaneh Forouhar had spent their lives speaking out against the death penalty.
- rejecting the death penalty in no way represented forgiveness in our eyes. We had never used the word “forgiveness”. Presenting these two terms as being of equal worth is, in our eyes, an abuse of the administration of justice.
- we view the entire work of the Judiciary in this case as a cover-up rather than as an investigation.
- the investigation into the political murders in Iran with these resulting verdicts cannot, in our eyes, nor in those of the public, be closed.
I hope that my portrayal of events has been able to give you an impression of the point that we have arrived at after nearly four years of dedicated effort in working for constitutionality.
We would acknowledge any response from your side that addresses the implausibility of the completed legal proceedings as an expression of solidarity for those that are still hoping for and working on taking steps towards constitutionality in Iran.