The following is an editorial published by the Wall Street Journal on Thursday, December 1, 2016 on the 1988 massacre of political prisoners in Iran:
The Wall Street Journal
REVIEW & OUTLOOK
Iran’s Prisoner of the Revolution
A beloved son of the regime is jailed for disclosing its crimes.
December 1, 2016
An Iranian revolutionary court on Sunday sentenced Ahmad Montazeri to 21 years in prison on a range of national-security charges. The 60-year-old cleric will serve a mere six years by Iranian justice standards, owing to his age and his family’s special status in Iranian revolutionary history. But his sentence is a reminder that the regime remains as brutal as ever, even as it reaps the economic benefits of its nuclear deal with the West.
Mr. Montazeri’s crime was to release tapes that capture his father, the Grand Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri, denouncing the regime’s repression during its first decade in power. The elder Montazeri, who died in 2009, was one of the regime’s founders with Ayatollah Khomeini. Tapped to succeed Khomeini as supreme leader, Montazeri grew increasingly disillusioned with the theocracy he had established.
The final break came in 1988 when the regime executed thousands of leftists and supporters of the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK) opposition group. The MEK had helped Khomeini topple the Shah in 1979. But after the revolution the new supreme leader set out to consolidate power and liquidate his erstwhile allies.
Montazeri denounced the executions at the time, accusing senior security apparatchiks in the 1988 recording of committing the “biggest crime in the Islamic Republic, for which the history will condemn us.” He added: “Beware of 50 years from now, when people will pass judgment on the leader [Khomeini] and will say he was a bloodthirsty, brutal and murderous leader.”
For his dissent, Montazeri was sidelined and spent much of the rest of his life under house arrest. Among the men he addressed in the tape was Mostafa Pourmohammadi, who is now Justice Minister in the “moderate” government that negotiated the nuclear deal.
Confronted with the recording this summer, Mr. Pourmohammadi said, “We take pride in executing God’s commandment with respect to the hypocrites,” using the regime’s epithet for the MEK. This episode about the nature of the Tehran regime is worth keeping in mind as Donald Trump becomes the seventh U.S. President to confront the Iranian threat.