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Wednesday, 6 February, 2002, 10:33 GMT
Tapes fuel Iran dissident murders debate
Trial of investigative journalist Akbar Ganji
Jailed journalist Akbar Ganji has accused conservatives
By BBC Eurasia analyst Sadeq Saba

A group of reformist members of the Iranian parliament has called for the establishment of a special fact-finding commission to investigate the killings of four Iranian dissidents in 1998.

The four dissidents were among several prominent intellectuals killed in a series of murders four years ago which shocked Iranian society.

The authorities said at the time that rogue elements within the security services had carried out the killings.

Some Ministry of Intelligence employees were tried in secret a year ago.

Security at dissident murder trial
Relatives of the dissidents dubbed the trial a scam
But the trial was condemned as a sham by the victims' families and international human rights organisations.

The case is still shrouded in mystery and some senior conservative officials could be implicated in the murders.

The MPs have been prompted to call for a parliamentary investigation into the killings of the dissidents by new revelations that suggest some of the defendants in the case were forced to make false confessions about their intentions while in prison.

Some highly sensitive and damaging videotapes have recently been leaked out of Iranian prisons which appear to show that violence was used to force a group of intelligence officials to admit that they killed the dissidents on the orders of foreign intelligence agencies.

Conservative cover-up?

Copies of the tapes were also smuggled out of Iran and presented two weeks ago by the British journalists' union, the National Union of Journalists, at a press conference in London.

The videotapes appear to have been made to support the view that foreign security services were involved in the murders and to absolve the conservative authorities of any responsibility.

And those who made the videos apparently intended to show an edited version to the public by cutting out scenes in which violence was used.

Akbar Ganji's supporters
The trial raised high emotions
Reformist supporters of the Iranian President, Mohammad Khatami, always rejected outside involvement in the murders of dissidents and blamed hardline elements within the conservative establishment.

They now feel that the videotapes constitute evidence of a conspiracy by their conservative rivals to conceal the truth.

The reformist MPs also want to know what really happened to the main suspect in the killings, Saeed Emami, who mysteriously died in prison two years ago.

Although the authorities announced that he committed suicide, the reformists suspect that he was killed in an attempt to bury his links with senior conservative officials who probably ordered the killings of the dissidents.

The reformist deputies need co-operation from the judiciary and security services in order to conduct a proper investigation into the killings.

But as these bodies are controlled by the conservatives, it is unlikely that the MPs will get any help.

See also:

07 Jan 01 | Middle East
'Cover-up' in Iran murder trial
02 Jan 01 | Middle East
Iran murder trial: Four confess
30 Nov 00 | Middle East
Iranian journalist names names
29 Nov 00 | Middle East
Iranian reformist trials to reopen
28 Nov 00 | Middle East
Iran bans popular youth title
09 Nov 00 | Middle East
Uproar as Iran judge accused
19 Jul 00 | Middle East
Iran timeline
20 Dec 00 | Country profiles
Country profile: Iran
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