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The Sheikh of Terror

Originally published at:http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324577904578557563282126152.html

By SOHRAB AHMARI

"The Diplomatic Sheikh" is what Western diplomats dubbed Hassan Rohani during his tenure from 2003 to 2005 as Iran's chief nuclear negotiator. The nickname was quickly picked up by the American press upon Mr. Rohani's election Saturday as Iran's next president. It complemented Mr. Rohani's newly minted reputation as a "moderate" and a "reformer." But the Iranian dissidents whose assassination he oversaw would find the label inapt—that is if they were still around to object.

As the U.S.-based Iran Human Rights Documentation Center reported in a 2008 briefing titled "No Safe Haven: Iran's Global Assassination Campaign," Mr. Rohani throughout the mid-1990s served as a member of the Islamic Republic's sinister Special Affairs Committee. The body "was established after Ayatollah Khomeini's death to make decisions on important matters of state," according the report. "One of the issues handled by the Committee was the suppression and elimination of political opposition to the Islamic Republic. As the secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, Vice-President Hassan Rohani told the Iranian newspaper Ettela'at in 1994 '[Iran] will not hesitate to destroy the activities of counterrevolutionary groups abroad.'"

Just how did Mr. Rohani and his colleagues go about doing this? "Once the Committee's recommendation was approved by the Supreme Leader, an individual committee member would be charged with implementing the decision with the assistance of the Ministry of Intelligence's Special Operations Council," according to the IHRDC. "The council's operational commanders receive a written order signed by the Supreme Leader authorizing an assassination."

Take the case of Reza Mazlouman, a criminologist who had served in the Shah's education ministry but was forced to escape to France in 1982 when the new revolutionary regime condemned him to death. In exile, Mazlouman was involved with an opposition organization called Flag of Freedom and edited its journal, Message of the Freemen. On May 27, 1996, Mazlouman received two unexpected guests at his home in the Paris suburb of Creteil. The next day, a neighbor found Mazlouman's body. "Two bullets had been shot from close range into his chest and another into his head," the IHRDC reports.

A French investigation led to the conviction in 2001 of an Iranian businessman who had introduced the assassin to Mazlouman but had not been present during the crime. The identity of the actual assassin (or assassins) remains a mystery. In his final ruling, the presiding judge concluded: "[The attack on Reza Mazlouman] was undoubtedly . . . a terrorist act, in the sense that it gravely disturbed the public order in and of itself, but also because it fits into a context of threats, each crime becoming an act of intimidation for other dissidents."

Perhaps a better nickname for Mr. Rohani—one of the key overseers of Iran's global-assassination campaign in the 1990s—might be the Sheikh of Terror.

 

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