OBSERVERS of Iran are concerned by a wave of political executions apparently carried out by the Khomeini regime during the past month. Because access to Iran is denied many Westerners, details are difficult to establish. But enough evidence is accumulating, some of it derived from Iranian radio broadcasts and official reports in the Iranian press, to suggest that hundreds of political prisoners may have been executed. The fear is that the lives of thousands more may be in jeopardy.
Amnesty International has taken up the case, and two members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Mervyn Dymally (D) of California and Donald Lukens (R) of Ohio, have asked for action from the United Nations. In a letter to Secretary-General Javier P'erez de Cu'ellar, they urge sending a UN mission to inspect ``Iranian prisons and torture chambers,'' to investigate the reports of executions, and to publicize the findings internationally.
An Iranian exile set himself on fire outside the UN building in New York last week. He was protesting the execution of dissidents in his homeland.
The Khomeini regime since its accession to power has jailed many thousands of political prisoners. They cover the entire spectrum - communists, supporters of groups who want the monarchy returned to power, members of the Bahai faith, supporters of the Kurds, and members of the People's Mojahedin of Iran.
The latter group has recently been particularly active militarily, mounting large-scale operations against the regime. Its members seem to have been targeted for execution, although Amnesty International says supporters of other political opposition groups are also reported to have been executed.
Family visits to political prisoners in Tehran's Evin prison have been halted, and this has fueled speculation that many of the prisoners may have been executed. A Financial Times correspondent in Iran reported that executed political prisoners were being sent for burial to Lots 91 and 92 in Tehran's Beheshte Zahra main cemetery and that there had been a ``traffic jam'' of bereaved relatives there.
There seems little question that the Khomeini regime is angered by Mojahedin military operations in the west of the country. Newspapers have published pictures of public hangings in the area, hangings of alleged collaborators with the Mojahedin, and Mojahedin members.
The pressure is on for execution without any kind of trial. For example, in a Friday prayer speech last month, monitored by Western sources, Iran's chief justice, Ayatollah Musavi Ardebili, said the people are so angry at the dissidents that the ``judiciary is under great pressure from public opinion, which questions why we even try them. There is no need for any trial. The crime is clear, the verdict is clear, and the punishment is also clear. There is no need for trial ... the people do not accept it when we say we must have proof, we must have evidence ... the people say they should all be executed.''
Amnesty International is opposed to the death penalty. In the case of Iran, it is particularly concerned by the lack of provisions for fair trial in political cases, and the lack of any procedure for prisoners sentenced to death to appeal against conviction or sentence.
In their letter to Mr. de Cuellar, the two American congressmen claim that the Khomeini regime has executed 70,000 people since l981 and that the recent wave of executions jeopardizes the lives of 140,000 remaining political prisoners.
The Mojahedin has planned demonstrations against the executions in New York, Bonn, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Athens, Amsterdam, and Geneva.