On August 10, 2016, the office representing the late Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri released an audio file from 1988 concerning the mass execution of thousands of political prisoners. 

Now, according to Montazeri’s grandson, Hamed Montazeri, who spoke to The Center for Human Rights in Iran [link in Persian], the Intelligence Ministry has demanded the family hand over any further audio files in its possession. 

In the audio file released last summer, Ayatollah Montazeri can be heard arguing with three members of the so-called “death panel” appointed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Montazeri told the officials that the executions would be remembered “as the biggest crime in the Islamic Republic – a crime that will condemn us all in history.” Ayatollah Montazeri was once heir apparent to Ayatollah Khomeini.

The release of the clip sent major shockwaves around Iran and across the media, so the Intelligence Ministry’s demands are a likely attempt to avoid any future controversies. According to Hamed Montazeri, the late ayatollah’s son, Ahmad Montazeri, rejected the Intelligence Ministry request. “We will not publish other files until it becomes necessary,” he told the agents. “The files are safe with the family and they will not be given to anybody.”

Following the publication of the audio file, Ahmad Montazeri was charged with acting against national security, “propaganda against the regime” and the publication of classified secrets. On November 27, Iran’s Special Clergy Court sentenced him to 21 years in prison and stripped him of his status as a cleric. But the court ruled that he had to serve only six years of his service because he does not have a criminal record and because his brother, Mohammad Montazeri, was a “martyr” who died in a 1981 bomb attack carried out by the People's Mojahedin Organization (MEK). Members of the MEK were among those executed by the regime in 1988. 

“This is a truly unjust verdict,” Ahmad Montazeri told IranWire following the sentencing. “I explained that whatever agency produces a document must decide whether that document is secret or not. Neither Ayatollah Montazeri’s office nor he himself had stamped the tape as secret or confidential. Secondly, all the contents of the tape had been already published in his memoirs.”

He called the reduced prison time “illegal” and said: “Nowhere in the law does it say that a martyr’s brother gets a reduced sentence, meaning that when a person has committed a serious crime, then two-thirds of his sentence will be mitigated because his brother has been martyred. There is no such law. They want me to owe them a debt of gratitude because they say that they did me a favor.”

Hamed Montazeri said that the Ministry agents issued their demand for additional files to be turned over on February 22. He said his father Ahmad was called, without an official summons, to the Clergy Special Court in Qom to start serving his sentence. He was released the next day for an eight-day furlough.

According to Hamed, at the end of his leave of absence on March 4, Ahmad Montazeri presented himself at the court to start his sentence but was told that the sentence had been suspended. The same day Qom’s Special Clergy Court issued a statement claiming that Ahmad Montazeri had promised to “behave.” [link in Persian] “The convict has given a written pledge not to repeat the crimes that he had committed and has been temporarily released,” said the statement, quoting an unnamed official. “The convict Ahmad Montazeri has promised to seriously prevent any activity deemed to be against the regime.”

But Hamed Montazeri disputed the statement. “My father has made no pledge,” he said. “He said that ‘we have never acted against the regime for such a pledge to be necessary.’” His denial was followed by a similar official statement from Montazeri’s office.

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