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The BBC's Jim Muir
"One of the hottest political issues in Iran"
 real 28k

Thursday, 30 November, 2000, 18:39 GMT
Iranian journalist names names
Akbar Ganji at trial
Akbar Ganji's revelations are sure to cause a sensation
By Jim Muir in Tehran

One of Iran's leading campaigning journalists, Akbar Ganji, has named a former intelligence minister as the key figure behind a series of murders of dissident intellectuals which shook Iran in recent years.

Mr Ganji, who is appearing before a revolutionary court in Tehran, is facing charges of undermining national security and making propaganda against the Islamic regime.

Akbar Ganji's supporters
Mr Ganji's supporters say he is being made a scapegoat
He said that the minister, Ali Fallahian, was one of a group of powerful figures involved in ordering the killings.

The serial murders of dissident writers and intellectuals, culminating two years ago, are still one of the hottest political issues in Iran.

And nobody has played a bigger role in exposing the roots of the scandal than Mr Ganji.

Big fish

Early last year the Iranian Intelligence Ministry announced that some of its officials were involved in the murders.

Arrests were made. One of the main suspects, Said Emami, died in mysterious circumstances in prison, allegedly having committed suicide.

Others who are charged with involvement are to appear in court next month.

Akbar Ganji has always said that the trail of responsibility goes higher than that.

President Khatami
Reformist President Khatami is at odds with hardline religious leaders
Now, in a blaze of publicity in a Revolutionary Court, he has publicly named names.

He said that adherents of one of the most influential hardline religious circles, based in the holy city of Qom, the Haqqani School, were responsible for the killings.

He named Mr Fallahian as the so-called "master key" on whose orders many killings had been carried out.

Clerics' blessings

He also named one of the country's most powerful judges, Mohsen Ejei, as having personally issued a death order against a writer, Pirooz Davani, who was one of several intellectuals murdered in 1998.

Mr Ganji said the killings were carried out with the blessings of several senior clerics who believed that taking the law into their own hands was justified if someone had insulted the sanctities of Islam.

Mr Ganji's revelations are certain to cause a sensation in Iranian political circles.

They are likely to lead to further pressure for a full investigation to be carried out.

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