On July 31, 1988, Iran’s former Deputy Supreme Leader Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri wrote to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to express his grave concern over the mass executions of political prisoners in Iran, namely members of the PMOI, which he said could not be justified in any way. While trying to convince Khomeini to withdraw his death decree, he appealed for Khomeini to at least spare the lives of women and children with a supplementary decree.
The following is the full translation of his letter:
Date: July 31, 1988
In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful,
His Exalted Eminence Imam Khomeini,
With greetings, I would like to apprise Your Eminence that following your recent decree for the execution of the Monafeqin [Mojahedin] who remain in prisons, the nation tolerates the execution of the detainees of recent events and they apparently have no adverse consequences, but the execution of those who were already in prison has the following consequences:
These executions are perceived as an act of vengeance and a vendetta, considering the present state of affairs;
Many families, even those who are pious and revolutionary, are distressed and aggrieved by these executions, and have turned their backs to our regime;
Many of the prisoners who are not holding fast to their views are being treated by the officials as if they were;
At a time when under the attacks and pressures of Saddam and the Monafeqin [Mojahedin], we are attracting some sympathy around the world and many newspapers and personalities are defending us, it is unwise for the regime and yourself to have the propaganda turn against us;
While these people have been sentenced by our courts to prison terms, to execute them without any process and new activity is a complete disregard for all judicial standards and judges’ rulings. This will not reflect well on our regime;
Our judicial officials, prosecutors and intelligence officials are not perfect and there is plenty of opportunity for mistakes and unduly influenced decisions. With Your Eminence’s recent decree, many people who have light charges or are innocent are executed;
We have not so far benefited from these killings and violence. We have only stirred more propaganda against ourselves and we have increased the appeal of the Monafeqin [Mojahedin] and the counterrevolutionaries. It is appropriate to treat them with mercy for a time so as to attract the sympathies of many of them;
If you insist on your decree, then at least issue an order so that the judge, the prosecutor and the intelligence official would have to reach a consensus for execution. They must particularly spare women with children. The execution of several thousand prisoners in a few days will not have positive repercussions and will not be mistake-free. Even some of our religious judges were very distressed by this.