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Families of Executed Political Prisoners Barred From Gathering In Tehran

Iranian police and security forces have prevented families from holding an annual commemoration of the mass executions of political prisoners in 1988, in spite of pleas by Amnesty International to allow the gathering to take place. The event would have marked the 20th anniversary of nationwide executions of political prisoners, which followed a cease-fire in the eight-year Iran-Iraq war.

An individual whose brother and two other relatives were among those executed told Radio Farda on condition of anonymity that the police did not even let the families approach the Khavaran cemetery near Tehran where the victims are buried. The mourner said that plain-clothes police and special forces were among the security officers deployed to prevent the mourners from visiting the graves, and added that the families plan to return to the site to hold their commemoration on Sunday, August 31.

Families have assembled each year to remember the victims. In the past nineteen years of commemorations, many participants have been beaten or arrested, but the relatives were always allowed to mourn in Khavaran, under the surveillance of ordinary and secret police accompanied by men with clubs.

The Iranian regime has not admitted to the executions, despite reports published by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and other international human rights groups. A publication that wrote about the mass executions, "Arya," was banned in 1999 and the writer of the article was imprisoned for over a year. in 2007, French-Iranian documentary filmmaker Mehrnoush Solouki, who had filmed the mass graves in Khavaran, was imprisoned for a month and then barred from leaving Iran for over a year. The news about the executions leaked in 1988 as a result of the publication of a letter of protest written by Ayatollah Hosseinali Montazeri, the heir apparent to Iran’s revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, which cost Montazeri his position.

-- Mossadegh Katouzian

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