Executioners of yesterday are ministers of Justice today!


[Former political prisoner Mohammad Reza Ashoogh is talking about his experience in prison, where the new justice minister Ali-Reza Avaee had been in charge of deciding who had to be prosecuted or not in the early years after the revolution.]

Mohammad Reza Ashoogh says Somebody who worked there before the revolution knew him. From 1980 – from 1979 – he became in charge of this office. Then in 1980, Ghazi Dezfuli –Dezful’s Friday Mass Prayer leader – gave him a letter, and he became in charge of the justice department and the court. In 1980, they got a degree for him from Qom seminary. And in 1981, they made him the prosecutor and gave him some degree. Because I was arrested in 1981, I had more encounters with Avaee there. I could see that he walked in the prison yard with one of the chief interrogators called Khalaf Rezaee. And he committed violent crimes against us from 1981 to 1983. And we witnessed these crimes in the prison.

The host asks: What did he exactly do from 1981 to 1984 in Dezful’s prison?

Mohammad Reza Ashoogh responds: When I entered Dezful’s prison, I was in public ward for almost a month. And there I could see that the Arabs who were arrested in Shush were executed behind the wall of the ward. There were other prisoners as well – 200 to 300 prisoners in this prison which was not actually a prison. They executed some people right behind the wall. After a month, they took me to a cell where there were some Arabs – son of Sheikh Khalaf, Sheikh Dabar, and others. They executed them all – no matter how much they swore, ‘we haven’t done anything wrong, we are nomads and we have hunting guns’.  But they executed all.

Mohammad Reza Ashoogh continues: And then at the time I was in the ward, I understood that there was this Baha’i woman called Iran Rahimpour. She was 44 years old and had worked in Hoveyda’s [Shah’s minister] office. She had come to Dezful or Andimeshk. They had arrested her, and taken her to Saadati Garden. On 13 May 1981, she was executed on a charge of being a Baha’i. And then at that time, I could see that some people fainted in the crowd. Then I asked Mohammad Rahimkhani, brother of Martyr Mahmoud Rahimkhani, ‘What is the matter with you?’ He said, ‘yesterday they took us for a mock execution’. He would faint and fall on the ground. And it was terrible.

Mohammad Reza Ashoogh goes on to say: I saw several others like that. And then I objected, and other guys told me that Shamshiri would beat me. And I said, ‘it doesn’t matter, but I should tell them’. After I yelled, they took me to a solitary confinement. They took me from the ward to the solitary confinement. That was the first month. I entered the solitary confinement, and from then on, I was always in the solitary confinement – be it from 1981 to 1983, or from 1986 to 1988. And in the solitary confinement, when they executed people, I could see that they brought people in front of the cells…

Host asks: Before getting to the solitary confinement, as for the things that you mentioned and these crimes – I say crimes because there was no lawyer, there was no court, and there was no defense on behalf of the prisoner – Ashoogh, were all the things that you mentioned carried out by Avaee’s order? Which place was Avaee prosecutor of?

Mohammad Reza Ashoogh says: Avaee and his brother were coordinators of these tragedies in UNESCO prison and northern Ahwaz because his brother was IRGC commander from 1979 to 1980. And there was Avaee as well. They had a committee which, in their words, decided who had to be executed or not. And that is why Arab Sheikhs and Arabs from Shush and that region were executed. A group of people who had connections with SAVAK [Intelligence Organization during Shah’s regime] or were informers of SAVAK and were nobodies. So they were not scared and hadn’t escaped because they thought they hadn’t committed any crimes. They were arrested and executed, including Khanjan who was from one of these cities protecting border regions.

Mohammad Reza Ashoogh explains: There were some people who were thugs and louts, and drug dealers or sodomites. They were rounded up from the city. And of course, they had previously problems with revolutionary guards. They were arrested and executed. That was up to 1981. But before I was arrested, there was another group called People’s Immigrants whose ideas were close to MEK. They arrested all of them. There were 5 or 6 people. They were taken to Ahwaz and were all executed. They were arrested by Avaee and his brother. After this, when I entered the solitary confinement, the manager of the prison was none but Avaee who was in charge of the prison and the court. All cases and sentences were issued by Ali-Reza Avaee.