Iran: The 1988 Massacre, Eyewitness Accounts, Alireza Akbari Sepehr
Following his arrest in Sweden in 2019, Hamid Noury’s trial entered its 80th session on Thursday. Noury, an Iranian prison official, was apprehended for his role in the massacre of 30,000 political prisoners, the majority of whom were members of the People’s Mojahedin of Iran (PMOI/MEK). Because of its progressive interpretation of Islam, Khomeini saw the MEK as a serious threat to his rule and ideology in 1988. As a result, he chose fate over faith and decided to eliminate anyone who refused to submit.
“The People’s Mojahedin is not individuals; they are an ideology and a world outlook,” Khomeini’s designated and later sacked heir, the late Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, told members of the Death Commission on August 14, 1988. They have logic. It takes the right logic to answer the wrong logic. With killings, you can’t fix what’s wrong; you can only spread it.”
During Thursday’s session, Alireza Akbari Sepehr, a former political prisoner from the Paykar Organization of Struggle for the Emancipation of the Working Class, shared his painful memories of his time in prison. Sepehr and his pregnant wife were apprehended in southeast Iran in 1982, months after the organization he backed was disbanded.
A few months later, Sepehr’s wife gave birth to their son in a solitary cell. On Thursday, Akbari Sepehr testified that he had three encounters with Hamid Noury, also known as Abbasi while working as an “assistant prosecutor” at the notorious Evin prison.
Akbari’s testimony focused on the so-called “Death tunnel.” As soon as the guards arrived, they began savagely beating prisoners who had to pass through a corridor surrounded by guards. “MEK detainees and I were taken to a cell after passing through the tunnel, where the guards stripped us naked and blindfolded us, then beat us,” he told the court.
According to Akbari Sepehr, the guards took away the TV set under the pretext of repairing it days before the 1988 massacre, and they also stopped bringing newspapers. All meetings were abruptly canceled, and inmates were informed via morse codes that the “Death Commission” had arrived at the prison.
The so-called “Death Commissions” were established shortly after the regime’s then-supreme leader, Ruhollah Khomeini, issued a fatwa ordering the execution of political prisoners, primarily MEK members. They only identified MEK members who refused to disavow the organization and its democratic ideals. Ebrahim Raisi, the regime’s current president, was a key member of the Death Commission, also known as the “hanging judge.”
Akbari Sepehr, a Marxist detainee, was forced to pray and give an interview in which he defended his previous positions. “I agreed to pray and do the interview when I realized the executions were going to happen,” he said.
Sepehr testified under oath that Hamid Noury is the infamous Hamid Abbasi, the deputy warden at Gohardasht prison and that he confirmed Noury’s involvement in the 1988 massacre.