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Over l,200 political prisoners were executed, some of whom were said to have received only prison sentences.
Thousands of others remained in prison, among them an unknown number of prisoners of conscience. Torture of political prisoners remained widespread and suspected political opponents of the government were sentenced to imprisonment or execution after unfair trials. Flogging was frequently used as punishment for a variety of offenses, sometimes in addition to other punishments. Some convicted of repeated theft suffered amputation, There were at least 142 executions for criminal offenses such as murder, rape and drug-trafficking. Many executions were carried out in public and announced in the official press.
Little progress appeared to have been made in redressing long-standing structural weaknesses in the administration of justice and the protection of prisoners from torture, ill-treatment and summary execution. The absence of adequate safe-guards facilitated the stifling of peaceful political opposition through indefinite detention without charge or trial of the government's political opponents, among them prisoners of conscience.
Widespread secret executions were alleged throughout the year. In February death sentence were reported to have been imposed on 67 political prisoners held in Gohardasht Prison in Karaj and in Evin Prison in Tehran. Official statements confirmed some executions of government opponents: for example, in May the executions of Anoushirvan Lotfi, Hojat Mohammed Pour and Hojatollah Ma'boudi in Evin Prison were announced in the official press. The three had reportedly been convicted of armed opposition to the government but no information was made available about the procedures followed at their trials, or whether they had benefited from safeguards such as representation by a lawyer and the right to appeal against the death sentence.
In August Iran and Iraq agreed to a cease fire after a war which had lasted over eight years. In the months which followed there was a massive wave of executions of political prisoners. One of the events which appears to have triggered the killing of many real or aliased opponents of the government was an armed incursion from Iraq into western Iran by the National Liberation Army (NLA), a force formed by the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI) the Baghdad based opposition group. At least 15 alleged PMOI sympathizers or collaborators were hanged in public in towns in western Iran; soon after the incursion their bodies were left hanging for several hours and photographs of the executions appeared in the official press.
Executions then spread to the prisons, where some political prisoners had been engaged in protests which coincided with the incursion. Victims included members and supporters of the PMOI and political prisoners from other opposition groups.
Between the end of July and the end of December at least 1,200 political prisoners were executed. The true figure was probably considerably higher.
Following the NLA incursion the policy of granting amnesties to political prisoners came under severe attack in the Iranian press. Newspapers alleged that former political prisoners who had been among the 3,000 "reformed" or "repentant" prisoners to benefit from amnesties to mark the ninth anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in February had participated in the incursion.
Reports of executions came from all parts of the country and included many victims who could have played no part in the July incursion. A large number of those executed had been imprisoned for several years or had been detained without trial.
Some had been sentenced to short prison terms in 1980 and 1981 for offenses such as distributing leaflets and newspapers, or taking part in political demonstrations, and had remained in detention after the completion of their sentences. Among them was an unknown number of prisoners of conscience. Others who had been released were reportedly rearrested and executed. In most cases it was not known whether there were further judicial proceedings before the execution took place.
Evaluation of the extent of the executions was made more difficult because of a ban on family visits to political prisoners which began in August, but information from a broad spectrum of opposition groups and from relatives of execution victims, statements from the authorities, and eye-witness reports confirmed that hundreds of political executions took place.
In one case a medical doctor held in Evin Prison since 1983, apparently because of his political activities as a member of the Tudeh Party, was executed secretly in the prison some time between May - the last time he received a visit from his family - and November, when the family were informed of his execution. He had been tried in 1984 but he had never been informed of the length of his sentence.
There were many reports of desperate relatives touring prisons, government offices and cemeteries searching for news of their family members. One woman described how, while looking for her husband's body, among recently-made unmarked graves in Jadeh Khavaran Cemetery in Tehran, she had dug up the corpse of an execution victim with her bare hands.
In August the Turkish press reported an incident in which 40 out of a group of 58 Iranian asylum-seekers handed over by the Turkish authorities to the Iranian authorities were executed in Orumieh on the Iranian side of the border. In November it was reported that about 12 mullahs associated with Ayatollah Hussein Ali Montazeri, then the designated successor to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, had been executed, apparently as a result of factional conflicts within the Iranian leadership.
There were also conflicting statements from the authorities about the executions.
In August Ayatollah Moussavi Ardebili, Chief Justice and President of the Supreme Judicial Council apparently called for the summary execution of government opponents. In October there were reports that Ayatollah Montazeri had criticized the executions. Other officials denied that large numbers of executions were taking place and referred to reports of mass executions as Western or opposition propaganda.
In May at least nine prominent supporters of the Association for the Defense
of Freedom and Sovereignty of the Iranian Nation, an organization closely
associated with Dr. Mehdi Bazargan who leads the Freedom Movement, the only
legal opposition movement in Iran, were detained following the circulation of
an open letter from Dr. Bazargan calling for an end to the Iran-Iraq war.
Hussein Shah-Hossaini, Abdel-Karim Hakimi and Ali Ardalan, Head of the Executive Committee of the Association, were released in October, but six others remained in detention without charge or trial at the end of the year, months after a cease fire had been declared.
An unknown number of relatives of political suspects were imprisoned to
bring pressure on these suspects, who in some cases had left the country, to
give themselves up. Relatives of young men who had evaded military service were
also detained and effectively held hostage by the authorities in similar way.
Many other prisoners of conscience remained in prison, and political detention continued to be used solely on grounds of suspicion without charge, trial or supervision by a judicial authority. Some prisoners were held in indefinite incommunicado detention.
In February Davoud Karimi, a senior official in the Islamic Revolutionary Komiteh, announced that there were 9,000 members of opposition groups and about 40,000 drug addicts and drug-traffickers imprisoned in Iran. In May Keyhan news paper reported the arrest of 200 members of the People's Feda'i Organization (Majority) and the Tudeh Party; further detentions of members of these and other left-wing groups were alleged.
In July large-scale arrests of PMOI sympathizers were reported to have followed the NLA incursion. Reports of the detention of supporters of Kurdish opposition groups such as Komala were confirmed in the official press. Many of those detained had allegedly been involved in planning acts of terrorism or sabotage.
Political prisoners were tried and sentenced, sometimes to death, by courts
which failed to comply with international standards for a fair trial.
Defendants were not permitted legal representation nor allowed to call witnesses in their defense.
Convictions were often based on confessions which, in some cases, were reportedly extracted under torture during indefinite periods of incommunicado pre-trial detention.
Allegations of torture of uncharged political detainees were received from all over Iran. In February hunger-strikes led by women political prisoners were reported to have taken place in protest against, among other things, persistent torture and ill-treatment. A woman political prisoner held in Evin Prison since 1984 was reported to have been beaten and denied essential medical treatment, which she had previously been receiving, because of her participation in these protests. Methods of torture alleged to have been used included repeated whipping with cables, particularly on the soles of the feet, and suspension by the wrists with one arm passed over the shoulder so that the wrists met behind the back. Both men and women detainees were reportedly subjected to sexual abuse and mock execution. One former prisoner described how he was detained by Revolutionary Guards and taken to Ettelaat Prison in Zahedan. There he was tied to a bed, lashed with cables and subjected to mock execution. In the same prison he claims to have seen Revolutionary Guards beating a young girl in front of her parents to force them to make confessions, and to have seen a woman beaten in front of her husband to force a confession from him. Judicial punishment which constituted cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment were extremely wide spread. Large numbers of people were flogged as punishment for a wide range of offenses. At least 22 people convicted of repeated theft suffered amputation, usually of the four fingers of the right hand. In April an 18-year-old youth was sentenced to amputation of four fingers from his right hand, 40 lashes, three years' imprisonment and two years' intimal exile, reportedly after being convicted of charges of 25 counts of theft and of offending against social and moral codes.
Scores of people were executed after being convicted of murder or drug-trafficking.
In July Morteza Eshraqi, the Tehran Revolutionary Prosecutor announced that
a mandatory death sentence would be imposed on anyone found in possession of
more than 30 grams of heroin, or more than five kilograms of opium.
Convicted drug-traffickers and murderers were often hanged in public, in some cases after being flogged. Four people were stoned to death after conviction of "moral offenses". Those under age 18 were not exempt from execution: in February a death sentence was passed on a 18-year-old youth found guilty of murder, and in April a 17-year-old convicted of raping a six-year-old boy was hanged in public.
In November Iranian diplomats in Turkey were discovered with a kidnapped Iranian refugee bound and gagged in the boot of their car. They were apparently attempting to abduct him and return him to Iran.
In March the United Nations Commission on Human Rights adopted a resolution which "expressed again its deep concern about the numerous and detailed allegation of grave human rights violations" in Iran. The Special Representative on the situation of human right in the Islamic Republic of Iran submitted his interim report to the UN General Assembly in October. His report concluded: "it appears that the persistence of alleged violations of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, in particular the recent reports of a renewed wave of executions in the period from July to September 1988, suffices to justify international concern".
In February Amnesty International submitted a written statement on human rights in Iran to the UN Commission on Human Rights; in May it published Iran: Persistent Violations of Human Rights.
Amnesty International repeatedly urged the Iranian authorities to stop executions and expressed concern on behalf of many individuals believed to be at risk of execution. It repeatedly sought information from the authorities about charges against individuals sentenced to death or executed and inquired about trial procedures followed in cases involving the application of the death penalty. These specific inquiries were not answered. In December it published details of hundreds of political executions which had taken place in preceding months and repeated its call for an end to such executions.
Amnesty International urged an end to cruel punishments such as amputation and flogging and pressed for an end to torture, for the release of all prisoners of conscience, and for all other political prisoners to be tried fairly and within a reasonable time. Amnesty International also proposed, on several occasions, that a delegation should visit Iran to discuss human rights concerns with the government but did not receive a response from the authorities.