The Mehr News Agency, which is affiliated with the Iranian regime’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS), published an interview on December 20 about the former regime official Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri.
Back in 1985, Montazeri was initially designated as the successor for the role of Supreme Leader to the founder of the Iranian regime, Ruhollah Khomeini. However, just four years later, before Khomeini died, he was stripped of his title, publicly ostracized, and remained under house arrest for the next 20 years until his death.
The People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) said, “In the lengthy interview, an anonymous senior Intelligence Ministry official explains the trajectory of Montazeri’s post-1979 revolution politics, focusing specifically on developments concerning the main opposition Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK).”
The official discussed how Montazeri began as a former student of Khomeini, but as Khomeini and his ‘inner circle’ saw how Montazeri protested against the 1988 massacre of 30,000 political prisoners, the majority of whom were members of the MEK, Khomeini made the decision to abandon him and strip him of his official titles.
Since August this year, Hamid Noury, a former prison officer involved in the 1988 massacre, has been on trial in Sweden, charged with committing war crimes and murder. He testified on his own behalf during proceedings in November but refused to refer to the MEK by their official name as it would have resulted in him being prosecuted and convicted by the regime if he ever returned to Iran.
The MEK said, “His testimony further highlighted the reality that the MEK, or even its name, has been one of the most critical red lines for the regime, and anyone believed to legitimize or support the MEK remotely is treated harshly. Montazeri, the regime’s No. 2, was not an exception.”
A large proportion of Mehr’s interview focused on Montazeri’s stance towards the MEK. It was suspected that Montazeri had been sympathizing with the MEK and its cause even before the Revolution, so Khomeini ordered the Intelligence Ministry to pay close attention to the activities within Montazeri’s office.
During the interview, the official said, “Mr. Montazeri’s stance gradually shifted to supporting the MEK. Initially, he criticized the methods and how the state dealt with the MEK, and year after year, the intensity of support for the MEK increased until we reached 1988 when he openly took a stance against the Imam (Khomeini) and the state while supporting the MEK.”
The official also admitted that Montazeri had met with a number of families of those imprisoned for supporting the MEK, who had the opportunity to then air their grievances about the crimes committed against them.
The MEK said, “In another revelation, the intelligence official recounts a series of meetings in 1983. He says that Montazeri was critical of the Prosecutor’s Office’s brutality towards MEK activists, particularly the chief Tehran prosecutor Assadollah Lajevardi.”
According to the official, Montazeri accused Lajevardi and other officials of murdering ‘people in the streets’ and then putting the blame on the MEK ‘in order to discredit them in the eyes of the public and to justify their executions’.
The MEK said, “After the fall of the Shah in 1979, the MEK became Iran’s largest political party with support among virtually every stratum of society. So extensive was this social support that it penetrated even quarters within the regime that were growing critical of authoritarian policies.”
From the admission from the intelligence official, it is apparent that the regime, terrified of the MEK’s popularity, made the decision to murder ordinary citizens and blame the MEK in order to demonize them.
During the height of the 1988 massacre, Montazeri met with members of the Death Commission in Tehran, a panel of judges responsible for carrying out Khomeini’s order to execute political prisoners who refused to denounce the MEK. One such member was the current regime president, Ebrahim Raisi.
In an audio recording from the meeting, which was leaked by Montazeri’s son in 2016, the members of the Death Commission were told by Montazeri that the massacre was the ‘greatest crime committed under the Islamic Republic’ and that their names would be ‘etched in the annals of history as criminals’ in the future.
In his fateful meeting with the “Death Commission” members, he said, “Ultimately, the Mujahedin-e Khalq are not simply individuals. They represent an ideology and a school of thought. They represent a line of logic. One must respond to the wrong logic by presenting the right logic. One cannot resolve this through killing; killing will only propagate and spread it.”