The son of one of the leaders of the Iranian revolution has been sentenced to a 21 year prison term –- 6 of which he is being required to serve. Ahmad Montazeri is the son of Grand Ayatollah Hosseinali Montazeri, once presumed to be in line for the post of Supreme Leader after the Islamic Republic’s founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
Ahmad Montazeri was recently convicted by a clerical court for “acting against national security” after he published a decades-old audiotape of his father bitterly condemning the mass executions of political prisoners in 1988. The details of those events remain shrouded in mystery.
While no exact figures are known, Amnesty International estimated that at least 5000 people – mostly political prisoners -- were summarily executed in Iranian prisons in the summer of that year. In the tape, Ayatollah Hosseinali Montazeri warned that the perpetrators of these extrajudicial killings were betraying the revolution’s values, and the future would judge them as murderers. Soon after voicing his condemnation, Montazeri was stripped of his leadership role and subjected to years of house arrest before his death in 2009.
The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran said the prosecution of Ahmad Montazeri for publishing the audiotape of his father demonstrates the lack of freedom of expression in Iran; and the verdict of the Special Court for the Clergy, whose lead prosecutor is one of the officials implicated in the tape, shows the absence of an independent judicial process and the rule of law.
In his recent visit to Greece, President Barack Obama emphasized that the bedrock of good governance is the recognition that certain rights are fundamental and universal:
“Freedom of speech and assembly – because true legitimacy can only come from the people, who must never be silenced. A free press to expose injustice and corruption and hold leaders accountable. Freedom of religion –- because we are all equal in the eyes of God. Independent judiciaries to uphold rule of law and human rights.”
These are crucial elements of democratic societies, which, as President Obama noted, tend to be more just, more stable and more successful.
Governments which ignore them, however, do so to their own detriment.