Iran's firing squads back in action with execution of Tehran newsman

The recent execution of a longtime Iranian journalist, Simon Forazmi, in Tehran has spotlighted what appears to be a new round of firing-squad activity in Iran. The executions seemed to subside after the start of the Iran-Iraq war last September.

Mr. Forazmi's execution caused surprise, not only because of the severity of the verdict but also because he was accused of having spied for the United States for several years. His name was alleged to have been found by militant Iranian students in the US Embassy, with documents proving that he was working as an agent for the embassy.

His trial, in a revolutionary court, was held in secret, like those of hundreds of others who have been put before the firing squad since February 1979 . No official announcement of his execution was made, and the Iranian news media first came to know about it from an Israeli radio broadcast.

Mr. Forazmi was executed Dec. 16 and the news reported by Israeli radio Dec. 17. The local Tehran newspaper Kayhan waited until Dec. 20 to report it had checked with the coroner's office in Tehran and found the news to be correct. The body had been transferred from the Evin prison to the coroner's office and handed to the journalist's family Dec. 20.

Journalists in Tehran remembered Mr. Forazmi as a small, quiet, white-haired man who for several years had edited the French newspaper, Journal de Tehran, during the Shah's regime. He also had worked for several years for Agence France-Presse. Among his recent works was a translation of the new Iranian Constitution into French last year.

Before the revolution, Mr. Forazmi sometimes bragged that he was close to the Pahlavi family during Shah Muhammad Reza Pahlavi's time and claimed that he often was invited to go skiing with them.

After the revolution, he did not think it necessary to flee Iran, as several other Iranian journalists had done. He continued to live a quiet life in a small house just behind the US Embassy compound.

Significantly, the Iranian media belatedly reported Dec. 21 that Mr. Forazmi was the first man to have been executed in Iran on charges of spying for the United States. But from the sketchy details that have emerged so far, the charges were so flimsy that it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that Mr. Forazmi became a victim of the current tussle between Tehran and Washington on the hostage issue.

The 52 Americans still being held in Tehran also have been referred to repeatedly as "spies," and the Iranian authorities once again warned Dec. 21 that if Washington did not agree to the conditions set by the Majlis (parliament) for their release, they would be tried as such.

While it is now known at this stage if the hostages actually will be tried, the revolutionary courts still are functioning in Iran. This is even though there is no place for them in the new Constitution of the Islamic Republic, ratified by the special Constituent Assembly in November of last year.

There also is no evidence that the revolutionary courts have even begun to wind up their activities more than a year after the ratification of the Constitution.

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