Iranian former political prisoner, Mohammad Zand, testified on Wednesday at the trial of Hamid Noury, aka Abbassi, in Albania. Noury’s trial was transferred from Sweden to Albania to hear the testimonies of 7 members of the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK) in Ashraf 3, including Mohammad Zand.
Hamid Noury was arrested in 2019 due to his role in the 1988 massacre of over 30,000 political prisoners. These seven MEK members witnessed Noury’s criminal conduct during the massacre in Gohardasht prison.
In the summer of 1988, over 30,000 political prisoners, mostly the MEK members, were condemned to execution by the so-called “Death Commissions,” and based on a fatwa by the regime’s then-Supreme Leader, Ruhollah Khomeini. Tehran’s current president, Ebrahim Raisi, was a key member of Tehran’s “Death Commission,” which was tasked with identifying the “steadfast” MEK members and condemning them to death. Hamid Noury was one of the prison officials active in this massacre.
The following paragraphs are some excerpts of Mohammad Zand’s shocking testimony on Wednesday.
Mohammad Zand was arrested in 1981 and spent 11 years in prison for supporting the MEK. His brother, Reza Zand, was executed during the 1988 massacre.
“On July 28, 1988, the prison authorities stopped giving us newspapers,” Mohammad Reza Zand said. According to him, when Zand and several other prisoners objected to this decision, they were beaten.
“Davood Lashgari [a torturer] took us out of the cell and into the hallway. He blindfolded us and asked us what our charge was. As soon as we said we are the MEK supporters, the guards started to beat us,” Zand said.
“A prison guard, Davood, who was trained in martial arts, kicked me in the foot and broke my toe. They continued beating us for an hour.”
According to Zand, after an hour of beating, Lashgari asks prisoners the same question about their charges; when they say “the MEK supporters,” he tells them: “Go back to your cells. We’ll come for you on Thursday.”
“When I returned to the ward, I was in very bad conditions. My brother, Reza, saw me and said you are very ill. I was falling to the ground when Gholam-Hossein Eskandari and Ramin Ghasemi helped me go to the showers, where I vomited. That night I tried to sleep with that pain,” Mr. Zand said.
“On Friday, July 29, they turned off the TV and banned any open airtime. My brother, Reza Zand, was walking with Mahmoud Royayie and said this has gone far beyond ordinary harassment. We need to protest,” he added.
Reza Zand was 21 years old and a college student studying technology. He was arrested in September of 1981 along with his friend, Parvis Sharifi. Both were executed during the 1988 massacre.
When Mohammad Reza Zand asked Reza why he thought the situation was not normal, he said: “Don’t you remember what they did to Masoud Moghbeli?” Moghbeli was transferred to the so-called “Joint Committee” in March of 1988 to be released. The authorities asked him to do an interview, which he refused. Thus, they told him: “Go tell your friends we’ll come for you soon.”
“In our last meeting with our mother, Reza told her that you won’t see me again. This regime will not let us go free,” Zand said.
“On July 30, the prison guard entered and called out eight names, including Reza’s name,” Zand said. “He gave me his ring and prayer beads and told me to keep them to remember him. I declined to take them, so he gave them to another prisoner and said, ‘Goodbye. We’re gone.’”
According to Zand, around 11 am, Hassan Ashrafian, another MEK supporter, sees Lashgari and several plainclothes agents carrying a wheelbarrow full of hanging ropes. Later, Zand sees them too.
“Two or three hours later, we heard shouts of ‘Death to Monafegh’ [a derogatory term the regime uses to refer to MEK members],” Zand recalls.
“The executions began on July 30, 1988. They first executed prisoners who were transferred from Mashhad, including Jafar Hashemi and Dr. Mohsen Ghafour Maghrebi. These prisoners openly defended their identity as the MEK supporters.”
“On July 30, they executed those who refused to give interviews, including Halal Layeghi and Mahshid Razaghi. The latter was a member of Iran’s national soccer team. On July 32, the guard came and took the prisoners who were from Karaj. These prisoners were: Mehrdad Samadzadeh, Mehrdad Ardebili, Hossein Bahri, Zeinolabedin Afshun, Mohammad Farmani, and Ali Osati, who was a close friend of mine,” Zand testified. According to Zand, they all were later executed,” Mr. Zand said.
“On August 5, they brought Gholamhossein Feiz to our ward. He said that the executions had started, and he had learned about it while he was in solitary confinement.” Gholamhossein Feiz tells Zand that “If they take me to the death commission, I will defend my support for MEK.” Feiz was executed on August 6.
First encounter with death commission
Zand was shortly after taken to the “Death Commission.” There, Hossainali Nayeri asked them whether he wanted to be pardoned by Khomeini or not?
“I said my sentence will be over soon, and why did you execute my brother? He would have been released in three years,” Zand responds. He was taken to another hall. “There, I could hear the voices of Lashgari, Hamid Abbasi [Noury], and Naserian.”
According to Zand, “Lashgari came and called out several names and took them to the amphitheater, where prisoners were executed. They took Nasser Mansouri to the gallows, although he was paralyzed.” The amphitheater, or ‘Hossainieh’, later became known as the “Death Hall.”
“After about half an hour, I Saw Mahmoud Zaki. I asked him what did you say when they asked your charges. He said: ‘I said I am a MEK supporter. He told us later: ‘The killings have begun. My duty is to defend my identity as a MEK supporter.’ Ali Haghverdi, who was with us, also said the same thing.
The second encounter with the death commission
Zand said: “On August 13, I was taken to the “Death Commission again.” Unfortunately, I couldn’t defend my identity as a MEK supporter. When I later joined the MEK in Iraq, I told them what I saw and decided to continue to struggle for freedom.”
Zand was later taken to solitary confinement and spent around three months there. He was transferred to the general ward, and the first person he saw was Mahmoud Royaie. “As far as I know, you’re the last one,” Mahmoud told Zand. “There were 160-170 prisoners in that ward before. Of all the prisoners in Gohardasht, those few remained.”
“I was allowed to meet my parents and sister ten days later. When they asked me where Reza was, I told them: ‘go and ask them,” Zand said.
“After a few days, they called my father and told him to go to Evin prison with Reza’s identification papers. He went to prison without the papers,” Zand said. “There, they gave him a bag, a shirt, and a watch. Reza had broken his watch as it pointed to two o’clock to indicate what time he had been executed.”
The regime’s authorities tried to intimidate Zand’s father and told him not to hold any ceremony and forced him to give them Reza’s identification papers. “When he refused, they started beating him and staged a mock execution for him. But he said: ‘Execute me. I will join my son.’”
Simultaneous with the trial, a number of survivors of the 1988 massacre and families of the victims gathered outside the District court of Durres. They also shared their stories with the press and shed light on the regime’s crimes against humanity.
November 10 – Durres, Albania
Numerous PMOI/MEK members, including former political prisoners & survivors of #Iran's #1988Massacre, were interviewed by the media on the executions of over 30,000 political prisoners & the role of regime officials/operatives.#ProsecuteRaisiNOW pic.twitter.com/JPc9nm3vvA
— People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) (@Mojahedineng) November 10, 2021
The MEK members in Ashraf 3 held a gathering in memory of the 1988 massacre martyrs, coinciding with Hamid Noury’s trial. Some political prisoners spoke at this event and shared what they witnessed in the regime’s dungeons. There are hundreds of former Iranian political prisoners in Ashraf, many of whom were prepared to testify in the Noury’s trial. Yet, due to the limitation in time, only a few, like Mohammad Reza Zand, were accepted as plaintiffs in the case.