Leaders of Iran

Saturday, December 18, 2004

A DEATH SENTENCE FOR THE MIRO - Problems for Behzad Nabavi

RFE/RL Iran Report: "A DEATH SENTENCE FOR THE MIRO. "Jaam," the weekly publication of the conservative Islamic Society of Engineers, on 5 August broke the news that a Hamedan Court had sentenced Hashem Aghajari of the Mujahedin of the Islamic Revolution Organization (MIRO) to death, and on 7 August, Aghajari's lawyer confirmed the news in an interview with ISNA. Aghajari's conviction relates to a speech he made in June (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 1 July 2002), but his trial may be connected with an effort to disband the left-wing MIRO.
Attorney Saleh Nikbakht said that the Hamedan Public Court sentenced Aghajari to death, eight years in prison, and banned him from teaching for 10 years. Nikbakht said that he would appeal the sentence upon receipt of formal notification. Nikbakht said that senior sources of emulation and Qom seminarians had seen a videotape of Aghajari's speech and confirmed that it did not insult the Prophet Mohammad, the imams, or sanctities, and it was not offensive in any way. Moreover, Aghajari apologized several times for having hurt anybody's feelings.

Aghajari's speech and the furor it caused appear to have made it open season on the MIRO, a party with roots in the Mujahedin Khalq Organization. Criticism of the MIRO could be found in publications (e.g., "Shoma," "Resalat," and "Yalisarat al-Hussein") associated with conservative political figures and groups. Mohammad Sazegar said in an interview with the 4 August "Resalat" that the MIRO had distanced itself from the constitution, ignored the people's religious beliefs, and neglected national interests. Sazegar said that the MIRO is paving the way for the United States by creating discord and disharmony.

There were other efforts to discredit the MIRO. Senior theologians received death threats signed by "the supporters of Hashem Aghajari," "Aftab-i Yazd" reported on 19 August, in an effort to have the party declared "muharib" (at war with Islam). The conservative Society of Islamic Associations of the Bazaar complained that the MIRO lacked political legitimacy, according to the 21 August "Tehran Times," prompting an investigation by the Article 10 Commission of Political Parties. This could have led to the MIRO's being dissolved.

And then there was an attempt to connect MIRO leader Behzad Nabavi with the 1981 bombing of the Islamic Republican Party headquarters by the Mujahedin Khalq Organization, as reported in the 1 September "Aftab-i Yazd." This incident led to the deaths of President Mohammad Ali Rajai and Prime Minister Mohammad Javad Bahonar, as well as 70 other officials, a number strikingly similar to the number of martyrs who died beside Imam Hussein in Karbala.

Deputy Speaker of Parliament Mohsen Armin, who is a member of the MIRO, dismissed as a joke attempts to dissolve his party, ISNA reported on 27 August. He said that such issues must be dealt with through legal channels, and declarations against the MIRO by seminarians lacked legitimacy. Armin went on to say that the Association of Qom Seminary Lecturers was more political than religious, and it and the Society of Islamic Associations of the Bazaar were allied and were opposed to the reformist front.

The death sentence against Aghajari is no joke, however, and even if the sentence is changed on appeal to only imprisonment, it is part of the effort to eliminate an outspoken element of the reform movement. Other significant MIRO members who have run into trouble with the courts are Mustafa Tajzadeh and Behzad Nabavi. (Bill Samii)"

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