Former revolutionary leaders caught up in Iranian 'spy' trial
A trial involving top revolutionary figures as well as allegations of international intrigue, nefarious political designs, and forged documents, is under way in Iran.
The defendant is Iranian former Deputy Prime Minister Abbas Amir Entezam. He is being tried in a Revolutionary Court on charges of spying for the Central Intelligence Agency.
But the former minister has fought back vigorously --with the outspoken support of former Prime Minister Mehdi Bazargan. In particular, Mr. Entezam has accused his opponents of using forged documents in the trial to discredit both himself and the Iran Freedom Movement led by Mr. Bazargan. And he has demanded his constitutional right, initially denied, to a defense lawyer.
Entezam has been a member of Bazargan's party since its inception 26 years ago. He told the court that the charges against him had been fabricated "only so that I and my colleagues in the provisional government should be forced off the political stage."
THe quoted a remark made by current Executive affairs Minister Behzad Nabavi, who told newsmen at a press conference recently that "the more important results of the hostage-taking was that a certain political faction was forced out of power."
The reference was to the collapse of the Bazargan government after the taking of the american hostages in Tehran in November 1979. Entezam was arrested about six weeks later. The espionage charges brought against him were based on documents alleged to have been found in the US Embassy by the militant students.
Entezam pointed out that he has not been allowed to see the documents, which were quoted sporadically in the indictment but not displayed in the court. Nor were those who supposedly found them at the embassy or those who translated them brought in as witnesses for the prosecution.
When Entezam charged that the court was violating Article 35 of the Iranian Constitution by depriving him of his right to a lawyer, the Islamic judge said he would be permitted to appoint a lawyer. The judge may thus have admitted that all the trials in the Revolutionary Courts since the Constitution was ratified more than 15 months ago have been illegal. In none of these trials has the court permitted the accussed persons to have defense lawyers.
This is the first time, too, since the revolutionary trials started more than two years ago that top-ranking revolutionary leaders have appeared in court as witnesses for the defense. These have included Bazargan himself and two other former ministers in his Cabinet, Ahmed Sadr Haj Sayed Djavadi and Yadollah Sahabi. The revolutionary credentials of all three are impeccable, and all are leaders in the Iran Freedom Movement.
Bazargan indulged in some plain speaking when he appeared in the court on the first day of the trial. Entezam, he said, had been in contact with American Embassy officials, including at least one top CIA man, with the full knowledge of himself, Foreign Minister Ibrahim Yazdi, and another deputy premier, Mustafa Chamran.
After the revolution, he explained, Iran's counterintelligence had collapsed because of the dissolution of Savak, the Shah's security organization. Chamran had made some startling discoveries by accident. One was that a helicopter had landed close to the Soviet-Iran border and unloaded a number of mysterious cases that then disappeared inside Iran.
To make amends for the lack of counterintelligence, the provisional government had approached both the Soviet and American Embassies with offers to exchange intelligence. Iran was to provide the Soviets with information about the United States, and the Americans with what it knew of Soviet activities in exchange for information useful to Iran.
As government spokesman, Entezam was the man responsible for contacting both embassies. "The Americans gave us plenty," Bazargan said. "The Soviets gave us nothing."
Entezam told the court, "It is the duty of government officials to talk to and communicate with representatives of other countries."
But during two sessions of the trial during which he had so far defended himself, he had hammered away at the theme that his was a political trial of himself and Bazargan's party. The prosecutor, he said, had been allowed full access to the news media, and "They have said and written whatever they wanted to against me." The indictment has been reported in detail on the state radio and television (controlled by the fundamentalists) but not his or Bazargan's response.