In August 2016, the son of Hossein Ali Montazeri, former deputy to the Islamic Republic founder Ruhollah Khomeini, leaked an audiotape dated 1988 about the late Montazeri’s meeting with several ‘jurists,’ including, Hossein-Ali Nayyeri, Head of Tehran’s Islamic Revolutionary Courts; Morteza Eshraghi, Tehran Prosecutor; Ebrahim Raisi, Deputy Tehran Prosecutor; and Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi, the representative of the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS).
These officials were members of the “Death Commissions,” which had been formed based on Khomeini’s fatwa to purge all prisons of political prisoners in 1988. In his decree, Khomeini plainly emphasized on the immediate execution of those who were affiliated with the leading opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK). However, the executions later expanded to other political activists.
At the time, Montazeri tried to convince Khomeini’s appointees to stop executions to save the Islamic Republic’s reputation. However, 28-year-old Raisi persisted on immediately hanging 200 more political prisoners before the holy month of Muharram.
Khomeini’s deputy demanded the commission stop the executions, declaring his “concerns over the future of Islam and the revolution.” Indeed, Montazeri had summoned the judicial authorities to prevent further executions. However, they were attempting to encourage him for more executions, according to the audiotape.
Montazeri: Death Commissions’ Members Are Cruelest Criminals
In the audiotape, Montazeri decried the extrajudicial executions, naming them, “The greatest crime of the Islamic Republic,” adding, “History would condemn us for this crime.” He also blamed the commission members for the executions and decried them as “criminals.”
“In my opinion, this is the greatest crime since the beginning of the Islamic Republic, and history would condemn us. This [crime] was handed by you ‘good and religious’ figures of the Judiciary system. You will be mentioned among history’s criminals,” Montazeri said.
Montazeri’s son had declared that there are further audiotapes and documents about this crime. However, he avoided exposing the remaining evidence fearing a reaction by the security and judicial apparatuses.
According to the PMOI/MEK, more than 30,000 political prisoners were executed across Iran in the summer of 1988. Iranian authorities have yet to announce the actual number of victims. However, they occasionally recall the crime as a “glorious victory” and as a sign of “Khomeini’s firmness against the enemy.”
Notably, in a letter to Iranian authorities on September 3, 2020, seven United Nations Special Rapporteurs stated that the 1988 extrajudicial executions and forced disappearances of thousands of political prisoners “may amount to crimes against humanity.”
Furthermore, on May 3, in an open letter to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, more than 150 former UN rapporteurs and experts called on her to establish a commission of inquiry into the 1988 massacre in Iran.
Currently, Ebrahim Raisi, who in 1988 insisted on the execution of the remaining 200 political prisoners, is running in the June 18 Presidential election as the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s favorite candidate. This is a flagrant sign of the deteriorating human rights situation in Iran. As the Judiciary Chief, Raisi ordered the execution of around 280 prisoners in 2020. Now, observers forecast far more violations of human rights with President Raisi.