Rights group attacks Iran's 'ministers of murder'
Anton La Guardia, The Telegraph:
Iran's hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has packed his government with former security and intelligence officials responsible for serious human rights abuses, including the killing of thousands of dissidents in Iranian jails, a leading human rights group said yesterday.
After Mr Ahmadinejad caused renewed international outrage by calling the Nazi Holocaust of Jews a "myth", a report by Human Rights Watch, based in New York, took aim at his hardline cabinet - in particular the new interior minister, Mustafa Pour-Mohammadi.
Mr Pour-Mohammadi, a notorious former deputy intelligence minister, held the post from 1987 to 1999 at a time when his agents "systematically engaged in extra-judicial killings of opposition figures, political activists and intellectuals", HRW said. READ MORE
The report, entitled Ministers of Murder: Iran's New Security Cabinet, links him to the murder of thousands of political prisoners in Iranian jails in 1988.
"The deliberate and systematic manner in which these extra-judicial executions took place may constitute a crime against humanity under international law," said HRW.
Mr Pour-Mohammadi was in charge of foreign intelligence operations from 1990 to 1999, a time when dozens of opposition figures were assassinated abroad.
"In some of these cases the hand of the Iranian government has been well established, while in others there are credible allegations of government involvement. Pour-Mohammadi is at the centre of strong allegations of direct involvement in orchestrating these assassinations," the campaign group said.
The minister was also implicated in a series of political murders of intellectuals in Iran in the 1990s, HRW said.
The campaign group also singled out Gholamhussein Mohseni Ezhei, the new minister of intelligence, or "information", who had previously served as a member of the judiciary that "spearheaded the prosecution of prominent reformist clerics".
There was no immediate response from Teheran to the allegations last night.
Western diplomats familiar with Iran say the two men have long been regarded as leading members of hardline factions that have tried to roll back political reforms promoted by the former president Mohammad Khatami. "If either of them were to turn up in Europe for medical treatment there would be a case for arresting them on the precedent of Gen Augusto Pinochet," said one European official.
President Ahmadinejad faced another round of western condemnation yesterday when he launched a renewed attack on Israel.
"They have invented a myth that Jews were massacred, and place this above God, religions and the prophets," he said in a speech broadcast live on state television.
"If somebody in their country questions God, nobody says anything," he added. "But if somebody denies the myth of the massacre of Jews, the Zionist loudspeakers and the governments in the pay of Zionism will start to scream."