Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

https://www.iranrights.org
Omid, a memorial in defense of human rights in Iran
One Person’s Story

Heidar Niku

About

Age: 31
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Non-Believer
Civil Status: Single

Case

Date of Killing: September, 1988
Location: Iran
Mode of Killing: Hanging
Charges: Counter revolutionary opinion and/or speech; Apostasy

About this Case

Mr. Heidar Niku is one of the victims in the mass killings of political prisoners in 1988. The majority of the executed prisoners were members of the Mojahedin Khalq Organization (MKO). Other victims included members or sympathizers of Marxist-Leninist organizations, such as the Fedaiyan Khalq (Minority) and the Peykar Organization, which opposed the Islamic Republic, as well as the Tudeh Party and the Fedaiyan Khalq (Majority), which did not. Information about the mass executions has been gathered by the Boroumand Foundation from the memoir of Ayatollah Montazeri, reports of human rights organizations, interviews with victims’ families, and witnesses’ memoirs.

The information about Mr. Heidar Niku is taken from the book The Martyrs of the Tudeh Party of Iran by the Tudeh Party Publications. He was a physics student at Tehran University of Technology. After the Revolution, he joined the Tudeh Party and was responsible for the Youth Division of the Party in Shahr-e Rey. According to a friend from the university, he was a member of the theatre club of the university. He was a calm, dignified and responsible man; he participated in technical and political school activities.

The Tudeh Party of Iran was created in 1941. The Tudeh Party ideology was Marxist-Leninist and it supported policies of the former Soviet Union. The Party played a major role in Iran’s political scene until it was banned for the second time following the August 19, 1953 coup. After the 1979 Revolution, the Party declared Ayatollah Khomeini and the Islamic Republic regime revolutionaries and anti-imperialists and therefore actively supported the new government. Although the Party never opposed the Islamic Republic, it became the target of government attacks in 1982 when most of the Party leaders and members were imprisoned.

Arrest and detention

The circumstances of this defendant’s arrest and detention are not known. Mr. Heidar Niku was arrested during February 1984. He was detained in Gohardasht Prison. According to the above source, he was kept in the solitary confinement for over a year.

Trial

Mr. Heidar Niku was tried and condemned to six years imprisonment. Specific details on the circumstances of the trials that led to the execution of Mr. Niku and thousands of other individuals in 1988 are not known. According to existing information, there was no official trial with the presence of an attorney and prosecutor. Those who were executed in 1988 were sent to a three-man committee consisting of a religious judge, a representative from the Intelligence Ministry, and a Public Prosecutor of Tehran. This committee asked the leftist prisoners some questions about their beliefs and whether or not they believed in God.

The relatives of political prisoners executed in 1988 refute the legality of the judicial process that resulted in thousands of executions throughout Iran. In their 1988 open letter to then Minister of Justice Dr. Habibi, they argue that the official secrecy surrounding these executions is proof of their illegality. They note that an overwhelming majority of these prisoners had been tried and sentenced to prison terms, which they were either serving or had already completed serving when they were retried and sentenced to death.

Charges

No charge has been publicly leveled against the victims of the 1988 mass executions. In their letters to the Minister of Justice (1988), and to the UN Special Rapporteur visiting Iran (February 2003), the families of the victims refer to the authorities accusations against the prisoners – accusations that may have led to their execution. These accusations include being “counter-revolutionary, anti-religion, and anti-Islam,” as well as being “associated with military action or with various [opposition] groups based near the borders.”

An edict of the Leader of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Khomeini, reproduced in the memoirs of Ayatollah Montazeri, his designated successor, corroborates the reported claims regarding the charges against the executed prisoners. In this edict, Ayatollah Khomeini refers to members of the Mojahedin Khalq Organization as “hypocrites” who do not believe in Islam and “wage war against God” and decrees that prisoners who still approve of the positions taken by this organization are also “waging war against God” and should be sentenced to death.

Defendants, who did not belong to the Organization named by the leader of the Islamic Republic, may have been accused of being “anti-religion” for not having renounced his or her beliefs.

Evidence of guilt

The report of this execution contains no evidence provided against the defendant.

Defense

No information is available about the defendant’s defence. In their open letter, the families of the prisoners note that defendants were not given the opportunity to defend themselves in court. Against the assertion that prisoners were associated with guerrilla forces operating near the borders, the families submit the isolation of their relatives from the outside during their detention: “Our children lived under most difficult conditions. Our visits were limited to 10 minutes behind a glass divider through a telephone every two weeks. We witnessed over seven years that they were denied access to anything that would have allowed them to establish contacts outside their prison walls.” Under such conditions the families reject the claim of the authorities that these prisoners were able to engage with the political groups outside Iran.

It is possible that prisoners who were members of organizations other than the MKO were charge for being “anti religious” and were condemned for insisting on their beliefs.

Judgment

No specific information is available about the execution sentence. Mr. Heidar Niku was hanged during the mass killings of political prisoners in September 1988. According to available information, leftist prisoners executed in 1988 were found to be “apostates.” Months after the executions, prison authorities informed the families about the executions and handed in the victims’ belongings to their families. The bodies, however, were not returned to them. The bodies were buried in mass graves. Authorities warned the families of prisoners against holding memorial ceremonies.

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