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Iranian Regime’s Terrorism, Human Rights Abuses Are Dual Effects of Appeasement

On Wednesday, the National Council of Resistance of Iran issued a statement in response to an appeal that had been filed in a Belgian court by three individuals convicted in February of plotting to commit terrorist murder at an Iranian expatriate gathering in Paris in 2018. The defendants are pursuing a review of their sentences of 15, 17, and 18 years, while their handler, an Iranian diplomat named Assadollah Assadi, previously declined to appeal his 20-year sentence. The NCRI statement predictably cautioned against mitigating any of these legal consequences, but also emphasized that upholding is not a sufficient course of action in itself.

“To dismantle the regime’s terrorism, the [Ministry of Intelligence and Security] and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps] must be designated as terrorists in their entirety, their agents and operatives are prosecuted and punished, their asylum and citizenship revoked, and they must be deported,” the statement said. It also recommended that a dossier be referred to the United Nations Security Council regarding the full range of Iran’s terrorist activities, as well as crimes against humanity that have targeted the Iranian people themselves.

Iran's diplomat & the largest terror plot in Europe. What was Assadollah Assadi's role

The appeal by Assadi’s co-conspirators is being heard at the same time as hearings are being held in Albania in the case of Hamid Noury, a former Iranian prison official who has been implicated in the regime’s single worst domestic crackdown. In the summer of 1988, Noury reportedly led political prisoners before a “death commission” at Gohardasht Prison and then to the gallows when they failed to demonstrate fealty to the theocratic system. Although charges were filed against him by Swedish authorities based on the principle of universal jurisdiction, the recent hearings in Albania reflect the fact that the massacre mainly targeted members of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).

Most of the massacre’s victims were buried in secret mass graves, and over the years some of those gravesites have been paved over and built upon in an effort to stymie any future investigations. Groups like Amnesty International have warned about the potential impact of this phenomenon, both in terms of its impact on victims’ families and in terms of its reinforcement of the regime’s impunity in matters of human rights abuses and terrorism.

Amnesty was also quick to highlight that impunity in the wake of Iran’s June presidential election, which saw the election of Ebrahim Raisi to the country’s second-highest office following a race in which other viable candidates were barred from running. “That Ebrahim Raisi has risen to the presidency instead of being investigated for the crimes against humanity of murder, enforced disappearance and torture, is a grim reminder that impunity reigns supreme in Iran,” said the organization’s Secretary-General, Agnès Calamard, in a statement immediately following that election.

The implied demand for such investigation was based primarily on two things: Raisi’s role as the head of the judiciary at the time of deadly crackdowns on a popular uprising in 2019, and his role as one of four members of the Tehran death commission that oversaw much of the 1988 massacre. The NCRI’s commentary on Nouri’s trial has frequently emphasized that the principle utilized to justify his prosecution could similarly be utilized to prosecute Iran’s current president. Its statement on the Belgian court’s appeal consideration also explicitly extended the call for high-level prosecutions to include Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

Khamenei effectively installed Raisi as the president himself and was instrumental in the prior appointment of other terrorists and human rights abusers to other high-profile positions. Among these were Mostafa Pourmohammadi and Alireza Avaei, who served back-to-back as Ministers of Justice despite having both directly participated in the 1988 massacre. Pourmohammadi even sat on the Tehran death commission alongside Raisi and later defended the mass killing of MEK members in interviews with state media, after details of the massacre leaked in 2016.

Western policymakers still remained largely silent on the issue of the massacre in the wake of those public statements, thereby courting further criticism regarding weak Iran policies and a tendency toward “appeasement.” In September 2020, seven UN human rights experts wrote an open letter to Iranian authorities about the 1988 massacre and called attention to the international community’s failure to follow up on early reports of an upsurge in killings. This, they said, “had a devastating impact on the victims and families, as well as on the general situation of human rights in Iran.”

The statement also argued that Iran had been emboldened in a “strategy of deflection and denial,” which arguably applies to the regime’s terrorist activity as well as its domestic violations of human rights. In declining to pursue an appeal for the mastermind of the plot to bomb the 2018 Paris rally, the Iranian regime presumably sought to avoid any additional international scrutiny regarding the case. And according to the NCRI, there is good reason for the regime to be concerned, given that the plot was evidently approved at the highest levels.

In fact, Belgian prosecutors acknowledged this fact in prosecuting Assadi and his accomplices. The NCRI was more specific in that issue, noting that Iran’s Supreme National Security Council is closely involved in all matters of foreign policy, and is comprised of various high-ranking officials including the president and the foreign minister. NCRI President Mrs. Maryam Rajavi explained all of this in seven-hour testimony before the Belgian court in 2019.

The NCRI noted that Khamenei would have approved any decision taken by the SNSC, and it attributed that approval to the same impulse guiding his appointment of Raisi as president. “Engulfed in incurable internal and external crises,” the coalition said, “Khamenei has found the only way out in stepping up suppression, accelerating the atomic bomb project, and carrying out more terrorism.” It then added that “Raisi’s cabinet foretells the escalation of terrorism,” insofar as it consists of numerous Revolutionary Guards and several persons who have been personally implicated in past terrorist incidents. Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi is even subject to an Interpol arrest warrant, but to the frustration of Tehran’s critics, little apparent efforts have been made to execute that warrant, even in the wake of the fairly recent bomb threat on European soil.