Omid, a memorial in defense of human rights in Iran
One Person’s Story

Amir Abbas Hoveyda


Age: 60
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Islam
Civil Status: Single


Date of Execution: April 7, 1979
Location: Tehran, Tehran Province, Iran
Mode of Execution: Shooting
Charges: Treason; Corruption on earth

Human rights violations in this case

The Legal Context

The Courts


Islamic Revolutionary Courts, 11 February 1979-1994


In the immediate aftermath of the 11 February 1979 Revolution, an ad hoc tribunal, initially referred to as the Extraordinary Revolutionary Tribunal, was set up to try the officials of the previous regime, for which no specific procedures were devised. In a decree dated 24 February 1979, Ayatollah Khomeini, the revolutionary religious leader, appointed a cleric as Shari’a Judge and instructed him “to issue Shari’a-based rulings,” thereby establishing the foundation of a system of special courts.


Initially, the revolutionary courts’ jurisdiction was determined by the religious judge’s interpretation of the Shari’a (Islamic law based on the teachings of the Qur’an, the traditions of the Prophet, the 12 imams, and the teachings of Shi’a scholars. On 17 June 1979, the Revolutionary Courts and the Prosecutor’s Office Rules of Procedure, which was only selectively observed, established the latter’s jurisdiction and make-up.


The Courts’ jurisdiction encompassed a wide array of offenses including moharebeh (“waging war with God”), efsad e fel arz (“spreading corruption on Earth”), crimes against national and international security, economic crimes, murder, profiteering, prostitution, rape, and narcotic drugs-related crimes. The law required that two of the three principal members of the Revolutionary Courts be Shari’a judges.



Islamic Revolutionary Courts, 1994-2002


With the adoption of the Law for the Establishment of General and Revolutionary Courts of 14 June 1994, and the Code of Criminal Procedure for General and Revolutionary Courts of 19 September 1999, a uniform code of procedure was applied to both revolutionary and general courts. The jurisdiction of the Revolutionary Courts was limited to 6 categories of offenses:

1. Crimes against national and international security,“moharebeh” (enmity with god) and “efsad e fel arz” (corruption on earth;)

2. defaming Ayatollah Khomeini and the Supreme Leader;

3. plotting against the Islamic Republic of Iran, armed action, terrorism, and sabotage;

4. espionage;

5. smuggling and drug-related crimes; 6. claims under Principle 49 (economic crimes) of the Constitution.

 6. Furthermore, pursuant to the Law on the Manner of Punishing Individuals Engaged in Unauthorized Audio and Visual Activities, Article 11, the revolutionary courts have jurisdiction over crimes that fall within the purview of said Law, including production and distribution of obscene materials and misuse and abuse thereof.

These courts continued, however, to try cases falling outside their jurisdiction, such as theft and sexual offenses. Further, the vagueness of laws regarding national security allowed the revolutionary courts to try political and media crimes whenever they wished to do so.


The new law eliminated the Prosecutor’s Office and gave the judges inthe Revolutionary Courts the power to perform the duties of the prosecutor, as well as their own, in any case brought before them.


Islamic Revolutionary Courts, 2002-Present


The Amended Law for the Establishment of General and Revolutionary Courts of 2002 reinstated the Prosecutor’s Office in both revolutionary and general courts. In cases involving political and media crimes, revolutionary courts’ jurisdiction overlaps with that of Province Criminal Courts.


With the passage of the new Rules of Criminal Procedure in 2014, and its coming into force in June 2015, the jurisdiction of the revolutionary courts remains unchanged, with slight modifications in procedural aspects of adjudication. For instance, the new law provides that for crimes subject to the death penalty, life imprisonment, amputation, third degree, or higher, the revolutionary court shall convene with three judges, whereas, prior to the passage of this law, adjudication of all crimes within the jurisdiction of revolutionary courts took place with only a single judge.

The Appellate System of Revolutionary Courts, 1979-Present


From their inception until 1994, the rulings of the Revolutionary Courts were not subject to appeal. In the early 1980s a court entitled the Supreme Court of Qom was established in the city of Qom and which reviewed cases of execution and confiscation of properties, thereby forming a first tier form of appeal. The exact date of the creation of the court is not clear, but, based on available information, the court became operational in the early 1980s, even though Ayatollah Khomeini's official order for its creation is dated 1985. The court’s procedure was not systematic and did not meet the international standards for a court of appeals; there was no official record of its jurisdiction. The Supreme Court of Qom was dissolved in 1989.


The Law of 14 June 1994 subjected the Courts’ decisions to appeal. An appellate court was established at each provincial capital, called the Province Court of Appeals, composed of a three-judge panel, to review decisions made by the Revolutionary Courts. The Supreme Court was designated as the appellate authority for particular decisions, including those involving capital punishment.


Narcotic drugs-related crimes constitute a significant exception to the appeals process. Governed by the Anti-Narcotic Drugs Law of 1988, as Amended on 8 November 1997 and 31 July 3 2010, these crimes are within the jurisdiction of, and are adjudicated on a regular basis by, Revolutionary Courts whose decisions are final. After being handed down by the judge, death sentences are sent to the Prosecutor General or the Head of the Supreme Court as a matter of administrative approval.


With the passage of the new Rules of Criminal Procedure in 2014 (and its coming into force in June 2015), however, drug related crimes became subject to appeal as well.

General Courts, 1979-1982


In cases not falling under the jurisdiction of the Revolutionary Courts, the system devised under the previous regime continued to function in parallel with new systems devised by laws passed by the Judicial Council, one of which, entitled The Legal Bill for the Establishment of General Courts of 11 September 1979, radically changed the entire structure and categorization of the courts. It divided the courts in three branches: Criminal, Civil, and Peace (a sort of arbitration court dealing with minor financial and other disputes). Specialized courts such as family courts were eliminated.


General Courts, 1982-1994


The Law of the Amendments to the Rules of Criminal Procedure of 1982 established a new criminal courts system, Criminal Courts I and II. Criminal Court I, established only in provincial capitals, had jurisdiction over more serious offenses, including those punishable by death, and Criminal Court II heard less serious crimes.


General Courts, 1994-2002


The Law for the Establishment of General and Revolutionary Courts of 14 June 1994 established umbrella courts called General Courts, which replaced and dissolved pre-existing civil and criminal courts. The law dissolved the Prosecutor’s offices and tasked a single person with the roles of judge, prosecutor, and investigator.


General Courts, 2002-2015


In 2002, the 1994 Law was amended, reviving the role of the Prosecutor’s Office in General Courts. The prosecution offices were re-established in a gradual process over several years. The amended law also re-established specialized branches within general courts dealing separately with criminal and civil matters. In addition, this law allocated a number of branches of the Province Court of Appeals to have original jurisdiction over a number of cases including the most serious offenses, as well as political and media crimes. In these cases, the branches are called the Province Criminal Court.


General Courts, 2015 to Today


With the passage of the new Rules of Criminal Procedure in 2014 and its coming into force in June 2015, general courts underwent certain changes as well. Criminal courts were divided into Criminal Court One, Criminal Court Two, Military Court, Juvenile Court, and Revolutionary Court. Criminal Court One has jurisdiction over serious crimes such as those subject to the death penalty, life imprisonment, amputation, third degree, and higher, as well as political and media crimes. Criminal Court Two has jurisdiction over other crimes. Another change consists of the establishment of juvenile courts, which adjudicates crimes committed by individuals less than 18 years of age. In cases where the individuals less than 18 commit serious crimes such as those subject to the death penalty, however, Criminal Court One will have jurisdiction, observing rules of juvenile criminal procedure.


The Appellate System of General Courts, 1979-Present


The Legal Bill for the Establishment of General Courts of 11 September 1979, abolished appeal of most criminal courts’ decisions. The law of 1982 restricted the appeal possibility even further. According to the Islamic Republic authorities’ interpretation of Islamic Law, a qualified jurist’s decisions were not subject to appeal except under special circumstances, such as when the judge realized his own mistake, or another judge advised him so, or when he did not have jurisdiction over the case. Even in such situations, the case would not go to a higher court but would be subject to review by the same judge or another judge at his level. The judges were even urged to call their verdicts “opinions,” so that the possible change in the verdict would not be “haram” (“sinful,” the highest level of prohibition in Islam, disobedience of which would result in a sin).


In October 1988, the Majles (Iranian parliament) passed a law regarding review of court judgments. This law provided for an appeal if the conviction was claimed to be based on invalid documentation or false testimony. The defendant could also base an appeal on a point of law or a procedural violation.


The appellate system was expanded in other laws in the late 1980s and in 1993. The Law for the Establishment of Criminal Courts I and II of 11 July 1989 created the Branches of the Supreme Court. Crimes of less importance, tried in Criminal Court II, were subject to review by Criminal Court I.


For the most important crimes involving death punishment, which were under the jurisdiction of Criminal Court I, the law allowed limited appeal to the Branches of the Supreme Court. Defendants had the right to petition the Supreme Court for appeal in certain cases involving false testimony or procedural violations, and if granted, the case would be remanded to either another criminal court or the original one.


Finally, the Law for the Establishment of General and Revolutionary Courts of 1994, as amended in 2002, established an appellate court at each provincial capital, called Province Court of Appeals, composed of a three-judge panel, to review decisions made by both general and revolutionary courts. The Supreme Court was designated as the appellate authority for particular decisions, including those carrying the death penalty, as well as decisions made by the Province Criminal Court.


The amended law of 2002, continued the appellate procedure to the Branches of the Supreme Court established by the afore-mentioned law of 11 July 1989


The Supreme Court continues to be the competent authority to rule on new trials, which have been provided for in limited circumstances.

With the passage of the new Rules of Criminal Procedure in 2014 and its coming into force in June 2015, the Court of Appeals shall be the competent authority to hear appeals from Criminal Court Two decisions, and the Supreme Court shall hear appeals from Criminal Court One decisions.

Special Courts for the Clergy


These courts are rooted in a 1979 decree, issued by Ayatollah Khomeini, which established a committee of religious and noble figures in every region to purge the clergy of anti-revolutionary elements under the supervision of the Revolutionary Courts. Between late 1981 and 1984, a special court in the city of Qom handled, though not systematically, the trial of clerics.


On 29 July 1987, Ayatollah Khomeini officially appointed a prosecutor and a member of the clergy as Shari’a judge for Special Courts for the Clergy. On 6 August 1990, a directive was issued regulating the conduct of these courts, the jurisdictional ambiguity of which is such that it effectively extends to “anyone where one of the parties is a cleric” and to “all matters in which the Court is designated as competent by the Supreme Leader.”


The court, which was not mentioned in the Islamic Republic's constitution, was mandated to try “pseudo clerics, those related to/connected with the clergy, for public and/or anti-revolutionary crimes, and violations of the prestige of the clergy,” and where the principal suspect is a member of the clergy, “any co-conspirator or assistant, whether a cleric or not.”


These courts are generally not open to the public and can issue sentences for all acts and omissions punishable under codified Iranian laws or Shari’a or for any other acts or omissions which can bring dishonor to the clergy or to the Islamic Revolution. Further, in certain particular cases – which have not been defined – where no punishment has been devised by either the Penal Code or even the Shari’a, the Court “can rule as it deems fit.” 


The Appellate System of the Special Court for the Clergy, 1979-Present


There is no information on any appeal process for the Special Court for the Clergy prior to the 1990 directive. Article 49 of said directive set up, however, an appeals court called Special Appellate Court for the Clergy, the head of which is appointed by the Supreme Leader, to which the decisions of the lower court can be appealed.


Military Courts


The military court system, independent from the judiciary under the previous regime, became a part of it on 1 December 1981. The Judiciary Organization of the Armed Forces, established in 1986, replaced and merged other military courts and tribunals in existence at the time, namely the pre-revolution Judiciary Organization of the Army, the Revolutionary Tribunal of the Army (established on 8 December 1979), and the Revolutionary and General Court for the Revolutionary Guards (established on 15 July 1979.) The Judiciary Organization of the Armed Forces has its own Criminal Code and follows the country’s general rules of criminal procedure.


The Law of the Criminal Procedure of the Armed Forces of 15 May 1985 created Military Courts I and II. Military Court I has jurisdiction over more serious offenses, including those punishable by death, and Military Court II hears less serious crimes.


The Appellate System of Military Courts, 1979-Present


The law of 8 December 1979, establishing the Revolutionary Military Court, did not provide for any appeals. The Law of 15 May 1985 created a system of appeals through the creation of a two-tier system of courts. The decisions of Military Court II were subject to review by Military Court I. This law also provided that multiple Branches of the Supreme Court be designated as the appellate court to review decisions of Military Court I.


The judges


1979-1997: Prosecutors and judges are not necessarily law graduates and jurists. Shortly after the Islamic Revolution, a five-member Committee was established to purge the judicial system of undesirable elements, pursuant to the Legal Bill for the Modification of the Judiciary and the Law for Hiring Judges of 8 March 1979. The power of the committee was absolute and its decisions, resulting in a widespread purge of the judiciary, final.


The Law for the Conditions of Selection of Judges of 4 May 1981 established the conditions of eligibility for judges. The latter were to be hired among men who were legitimate children and had practical commitment to Islam and allegiance to the Islamic Republic. The law, which led to the hiring of clerics and Islamic legal scholars, also allowed hiring practically anyone as a judge who could “obtain the Judicial High Council’s permission.” Moreover, Note 2 of the Amendments of 4 October 1982 to this law allowed widespread employment of seminary students “who ha[d] general knowledge equivalent to a high school diploma” as judges at prosecutor’s offices in general as well as Revolutionary Courts.  


By 1989, the judiciary counted about 2,000 new judges trained in theological seminaries (graduates and students) and political appointees, many having replaced judges trained in law schools.


1997-Present: As of this writing (2013) the Law for Hiring Judges and its amendments of 4 October 1982, 7 February 1987, and 9 May 1988 are in full force and form the basis for hiring judges. The Executive Rules of Procedure of 22 December 1997 subjected such hiring to passing an entrance examination and successful completion of an apprenticeship program, the duration of which ranges between one and two years. The law does not limit hiring to men only but does not specify in what capacity women will be functioning, other than an advisory one.

Currently, judges are selected in accordance with the Guidelines on the Recruitment, Selection, and Internship for Judicial Candidates and the Hiring of Judges.


Dismissal of Judges: From 1979 to 1989, the judiciary was run by the Supreme Judicial Council which was composed of the head of the Supreme Court, the Prosecutor General (both of whom were appointed by the Supreme Leader), and three judges elected by the entire body of judges in the country. The Council had the power to hire and dismiss judges in accordance with the law.


The constitutional reforms of 1989 substituted the Supreme Judicial Council with one person, the Head of the Judiciary. The Supreme Leader, whose mandate is not subject to popular vote, appoints the Head of the Judiciary for a 5-year term. The latter has significant power to influence the dismissal of judges. Dismissal cases are referred to three types of disciplinary courts, presided over by judges appointed by the Head of the Judiciary, who has veto power over any decisions made by the relevant courts.


Two of these courts, established in 1991 and 2011, are charged with examining the judges’ conduct from a religious and ideological standpoint. The process does not necessarily involve the defendant and the final decision, left to the Head of the Judiciary, is not subject to appeal.


Detentions, interrogations, and trials: 1979-1980

Pre-trial detentions

The charges upon which the accused were arraigned were often extremely broad. Defendants generally had no access to legal counsel nor to their file and the evidence against them prior to the trial.


Witnesses might be called, or the statement of persons with relevant information read into the court’s record. Accusation witnesses could come forward the day of the trial to give evidence against the accused, but in most cases, defense witnesses were not allowed in court. There was no automatic right of a defendant to cross-examine witnesses or to know the source of the evidence against him. The defendant had an opportunity to state his side of the matter and attempt to refute what was said against him, but the final decision was solely up to the discretion of the religious judge.

Appeal processes

The judgments of the Revolutionary Courts were not subject to appeal. The convicts were generally executed within a few hours of the judgment.

Human rights violations

Based on the available information, the following human rights have been violated in this case:

  • The right to liberty and security of the person. The right not to be subjected to arbitrary arrest and detention.

    Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Article 3; International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Article 9.1.

  • The right not to be punished for any crime on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a criminal offence, under national or international law, at the time it was committed.

    UDHR, Article 11.2; ICCPR, Article 15, Article 6.2.

  • The right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, including the right to change and manifest one’s religion or belief.

    UDHR, Article 18; ICCPR, Article 18.1, ICCPR, Article 18.2; Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief, Article 1 and Article 6.

    In its general comment 22 (48) of 20 July 1993, the United Nation’s Human Rights Committee observed that the freedom to "have or to adopt" a religion or belief necessarily entailed the freedom to choose a religion or belief, including the right to replace one's current religion or belief with another or to adopt atheistic views, as well as the right to retain one's religion or belief. Article 18, paragraph 2, of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights bars coercion that would impair the right to have or adopt a religion or belief, including the use of threat of physical force or penal sanctions to compel believers or non-believers to adhere to religious beliefs and congregations, to recant their religion or belief or to convert.

The right to due process

Pre-trial detention rights

  • The right to know promptly and in detail the nature and cause of the charges against one.

    UDHR, Article 9(2); ICCPR, Article 9.2 and Article 14.3.a

  • The right to counsel of one’s own choosing or legal aid and the right to meet with one’s attorney in confidence

    ICCPR, Article 14.3.d; Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, Article 1 , Article 2, Article 5, Article 6, and Article 8.

  • The right to adequate time and facilities for the preparation of the defense case.

    ICCPR, Article 14.3.b; Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, Article 8

  • The right not to be compelled to testify against oneself or to confess to guilt.

    ICCPR, Article 14.3.g.

  • The right not to be subjected to torture and to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

    UDHR, Article 5; ICCPR, Article 7; Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment and Punishment, Article 1, and Article 2.

Trial rights

    • The right to a fair and public trial without undue delay.

      ICCPR, Article 9.3, Article 14.1, Article 14.3.c.

    • The right to examine, or have examined the witnesses against one and to obtain the attendance and examination of defense witnesses under the same conditions as witnesses for the prosecution.

ICCPR, Article 14.3.e.

  • The right to have the decision rendered in public.

    ICCPR, Article 14.1.

Judgment rights

  • The right to appeal to a court of higher jurisdiction.

    ICCPR, Article 14.5.

  • The right to seek pardon or commutation of sentence.

    ICCPR, Article 6.4.

Capital punishment
  • The inherent right to life, of which no one shall be arbitrarily deprived.

    Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Article 3; International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Article 6.1; Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty, Article 1.1, Article 1.2.

  • The right not to be subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment.

    ICCPR, Article 7; Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment and Punishment, Article 1 and Article 2.

About this Case

He favored greater independence for regional and local office holders, spoke the languages of the places he’d lived, tended his rose bushes, and served 14 years as prime minister.


Mr. Amir Abbas Hoveyda, former prime minister of Iran, is one of 438 victims appearing in an Amnesty International report dated March 13, 1980, which lists defendants convicted by Revolutionary Tribunals between the Tribunals’ inception and August 12, 1979. The list of victims and charges is drawn from translations of indictments, local and foreign media reports on trials carried out, and the bulletins of the official Pars News Agency. Mr. Hoveyda’s trial and execution were announced in the Kayhan newspaper (February 13, March 15, and April 8, 1979) and on Islamic Republic state-run television (April 17, 1979). News of the execution was immediately published widely in newspapers outside Iran. Additional information below is drawn from the website of the Iran newspaper (April 9, 2003); Mr. Abbas Milani’s book The Persian Sphinx, the website Mr. Hoveyda’s brother, Mr. Fereidun Hoveyda, dedicated to his case,Le Monde, April 12, 1979, as well as The New York Times, May 7, 1979.

Amir Abbas Hoveyda was born on February 18, 1919, in Tehran, where he received his primary education. According to information posted to his brother’s website, Mr. Hoveyda continued his education in Beirut, later earning a master’s degree in political science and economics from the Université Libre in Brussels and a Ph.D in history from the Sorbonne, in Paris. Upon returning to Iran, Mr. Hoveyda started his career at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (1942). Before becoming prime minister, he worked at the Iranian embassies in France and West Germany (1945-47 and 1947-51, respectively), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva (1952-56), the Iranian Embassy in Ankara (1957), the Iranian National Oil Company (1958-64), and the Ministry of Finance (1964). When the New Iran Party was formed on December 15, 1963, Mr. Hoveyda became its deputy secretary-general. He later replaced the secretary-general, Mr. Hassan Ali Mansur, after Mansur was assassinated on January 21, 1965 (F. Hoveyda’s website).

Mr. Hoveyda was prime minister from January 27, 1965, to August 7, 1977. During this time he advocated tax law reform, stabilization of prices, and more power for provincial and local authorities. Under his administration, Iran joined the Central Treaty Organization and held negotiations with the Soviet Union on “the construction of a steel mill… and a natural gas pipeline, as well as … exploiting iron and coal mines” (F. Hoveyda’s website). In 1975, the multi-party system was replaced by a single party, the Rastakhiz Party, and Mr. Hoveyda became head of the Party. After his dismissal as prime minister on August 7, 1977, he became Minister of the Royal Court, a post from which he was dismissed on September 9, 1978.

On a personal level, Mr. Hoveyda had previously been married for five years and had no children. He was hard-working and loved reading. He spoke English, French, German, and Arabic fluently. He loved playing golf and tennis, and gardening roses (F. Hoveyda’s website).

Arrest and detention

On November 8, 1978, the Shah ordered Mr. Hoveyda’s arrest. Following the fall of the monarchy on February 11, 1979, Mr. Hoveyda’s captors fled. He turned himself in to the new authorities and was detained for about two months. In a press conference on February 13, 1979, Mr. Hoveyda said: “I have been detained in accordance with Article 5 of the Martial Law, and I am here today. I was alone at the detention center today. There was no guard to stop me [had I decided to escape]. But I have decided to surrender myself, and that is why I have come here [the headquarters of the provisional government]. I had the chance to get in a car and leave. If I wanted to flee, I could have done so six months ago, but I stayed. If there are any charges, I will address them.” In response to the journalists’ aggressive questions, he stated: “This is a press conference, not a trial.” The report in Kayhan noted that Mr. Hoveyda had lost 20 kg of weight. He told the reporters that during the past 25 days, he had had no access to radio or newspapers and was unaware of the happenings in the outside world.

According to Milani’s book, Mr. Hoveyda seemed doubtful about the due process of law in the new Islamic regime. In a note in French that Mr. Hoveyda smuggled out of the prison on March 1, 1979, through his doctor and a cousin, he wrote: “There will be no attorney; they hate us and think we destroyed all that was dear to them; they will kill us all; conditions are worse than you can imagine. Death will be a blessing.”


The first session of Mr. Hoveyda’s trial took place at the Islamic Revolutionary Tribunal, at forty-five minutes past midnight on March 15, 1979 (Kayhan). The authorities had not informed him of the date and time of the trial, and according to Kayhan, “When Hoveyda was brought into the courtroom and saw the audience, he still did not know why he had been awakened.” Six judges sat on the bench, along with one prosecutor. Mr. Hoveyda asked the presiding judge, Ayatollah Sadeq Khalkhali, to remove the sign bearing his name, which was attached to his shirt with a safety pin, since he was well-known. He was denied the right to have an attorney. According to Kayhan, the second and final trial session took place at the Islamic Revolutionary Tribunal at 2:30 p.m. on April 7, 1979, in the presence of a few journalists.


According to Kayhan, at the first trial session, the presiding judge of the Revolutionary Tribunal of Islamic Justice read the indictment, accusing Mr. Hoveyda of the following (translated in Amnesty International’s March 13, 1980 report):

“1. Corruption on earth.
2. War on God, the people of God and the deputy of the Imam.
3. Revolt against the security and freedom of the country by forming cabinets handpicked by the United States of America and Britain to safeguard colonialist interests. 
4. Acting against the national sovereignty; interfering with the Majlis [Parliament] elections and appointing and dismissing ministers and commanders according to the wishes of foreign ambassadors. 
5. Assigning the underground resources of oil, copper and uranium to foreigners.
6. Expanding the influence of imperialists, America and her European allies in Iran through the destruction of local resources and conversion of Iran into a consumer market for foreign goods. 
7. Paying oil income to the Shah, Empress Farah and countries affiliated with the West; contracting loans from the USA and Western governments at a high interest rate and on enslaving terms and conditions. 
8. Destroying agriculture and forests. 
9. Direct participation in spy activities in favor of the West and Zionism. 
10. Grouping with plotters in CENTO [Central Treaty Organization] and NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Organization] for repressing the nations of Palestine, Vietnam, and Iran. 
11. Active membership in the Freemasons organization in the Foroughi legion, as supported by existing documents and confession of the accused person. 
12. Participation in threats and terrorism against just people, and in their murder, assault, and battery and limiting their freedoms by arresting journalists and exercising censorship of the press and books. 
13. Founding and holding the first secretary-generalship of the dictatorial Rastakhiz Party of Iran. 
14. Spreading cultural and moral corruption, participation in the strengthening of the colonialist foothold and creating a capitulatory system of justice for American citizens. 
15. Direct participation in the smuggling of heroin to France in the company of Hassan Ali Mansour. 
16. Untrue reporting through handpicked newspapers and appointing handpicked editors at the head of the publication.”

The prosecutor of the Tribunal asked for the execution of the defendant and the confiscation of his property, “since the crimes were evident.”

During the questions and answers at the second session of the Tribunal, the Prosecutor’s representative referred to additional charges, such as Mr. Hoveyda’s responsibility for the actions of SAVAK [the National Intelligence and Security Organization], for declines in agriculture and industry, as well as for censorship and oppression. He emphasized that the Tribunal tried the system as a whole, not Mr. Hoveyda.

The validity of the criminal charges brought against this defendant cannot be ascertained, given the absence of basic guarantees provided in a fair trial.

Evidence of guilt

According to the prosecutor’s indictment, the evidence presented against Mr. Hoveyda was as follows: “minutes of the meetings of the cabinet and the High Economic Council; the testimony of plaintiffs, including Dr. Ali Asghar Haj Seyed Javadi; documents of SAVAK and the office of prime minister; the testimonies of Dr. Manuchehr Azmun, Mahmud Ja’farian, Parviz Nikkhah, and those close to the defendant,” as well as his own confession that he was a freemason. The report of this trial session merely refers to witnesses and evidence with no further clarification.


Mr. Hoveyda answered the questions and delivered his defense only in general terms, for he was not allowed to provide details. According to available information, he was not aware of these charges nor the evidence in support of the charges until the beginning of his trial session. Kayhan reported: “As the prosecutor read the indictment, he took notes so that he could defend himself.”

According to Milani’s book, a few days prior to the second trial (April 7, 1979), Mr. Hoveyda smuggled an English note out of the prison, in which he stated that prior to the end of the Monarchy, he was being used as a “sacrifice” [scapegoat] in order to “put all blames about everything which took place in this country for the last 15 years on me.” In this note, he asked his close relatives to bring him a copy of the indictment and arrange for him to meet with the general prosecutor. He also asked for texts on “fighting God” and “libel.” He requested his relatives to form a “panel of lawyers” and seek the advice of “an expert on religious matters.” He emphasized, “Too many people have been arrested – ministers, army people, officials… It will take ages before a trial is set for anyone. Really, the last regime should be purged, and this would include over two million people” (Milani).

The Kayhan newspaper reported that, having heard the indictment, Mr. Hoveyda said: “I’m faced with a list of stipulations, prepared here and read to the audience. How can I defend myself? ... I have been detained since November 8, and I ask myself why. My hands are not fouled with blood or money. Had I been involved in corruption, the prosecutor would have been aware, and had I caused the death of someone, it would have become public knowledge. I was involved in a governmental hierarchy. You live here and are aware who made what type of decisions, who had the authority to do what, and what the responsibilities of prime minister were. You mentioned oppression and censorship of the media. These are topics that require hours of discussion.… We should discuss why I was dismissed as prime minister and later dismissed as Minister of the Royal Court. The court should examine what accounts for the fact that one of the prime ministers left the country in the last days of the previous regime. I am accused. My life is valueless and, if I am to be convicted, I do not object.”

Regarding the allegation that Mr. Hoveyda accepted American “capitulations” (i.e. the extraterritorial rights and privileges of American citizens residing in Iran), he said: “At the time, I was not the head of the government. I was Minister of Finance and was outside the country to attend OPEC talks.”

Mr. Hoveyda addressed the charge that during his premiership the influence of American imperialism, and that of its European allies, increased. He said: “We worked in a system where I was as guilty as everyone else. We had consensus. If you call that system ‘an enemy of God,’ it did not consist of me alone – many others were incorporated in the system… Your allegation that I gave away ownership of copper mines to Americans is false. Convict me if you want, whatever you please. The life of an individual is valueless in comparison to the life of a nation. I have been detained since November 8 [1978] and was unable to provide you with the relevant information… But I will find the contract, which proves that the copper mine belonged to a family which was legally entitled to discover natural resources in the country; however, I decided it was not right to give the ownership of a large mine to an individual, and the mine was taken back. The Americans partnered with a Chilean company and worked as contractors to extract the copper from the mine and export it.”

When asked what his religion was, Mr. Hoveyda replied: “I am definitely a Muslim. I was born into a Muslim family.” He rejected the allegation that he was a Baha’i and an “enemy of God” and said: “Regarding the allegation of being at war with God, I must say I am from a religious and pious family. An enemy of God is a false depiction. On the contrary, I went to visit the House of God [i.e., Hajj Pilgrimage] due to my religious beliefs. My elderly mother also has strong religious beliefs. I ask the court, when did I fight God? How can any person fight with God? An enemy of God implies one can fight God.”

Rejecting the allegation of acting against national security and independence, as well as smuggling heroin, Mr. Hoveyda said: “I can only say that I cannot defend myself against these allegations. I should be allowed to ask questions [for the court to clarify the charges]. The system of government did not start with my premiership and did not end after my dismissal. Regarding the allegation that I sold our country to foreigners and did this and that, I say that the court has been misinformed. If I am accused of obeying the orders of foreigners, there must be evidence. Regarding the charge of smuggling heroin, these were accusations published by an individual affiliated with the Tudeh Party.

In his defense regarding the allegation that he was responsible for the actions of SAVAK, Mr. Hoveyda stated: “On paper, the head of SAVAK was an undersecretary of the prime minister; in reality, however, he had nothing to do with the office of prime minister.” He then referred to Lieutenant General Naser Moqaddam: “He tried to free political prisoners and asked for my help in this matter.”

Mr. Hoveyda went on to say: “Can you possibly say that SAVAK consulted with the prime minister on whom to arrest? The armed forces have a chief of staff for each division: air force, navy, and army. Was the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff also my subordinate? I could not interfere in the work of the regime since the Monarch had the ultimate authority over all three branches according to the Constitution… You live once and die once. I am not afraid. I believe in Islamic justice and I will be obedient to the ruling. I cannot do anything else. My life began prior to the Pahvali regime. I did not participate in the coup of August 19, 1953, to remove Mosadeq from power. I became the prime minister in the same system where I had started my career as Minister of Finance.

“I do not say that I was not guilty in the system, but I was merely one element of the regime. I was a figure with limited authority; I am liable only for my own actions. I should have had greater authority but I did not. My criticism of the court is that I should be held liable only for what I had authority over. Even as prime minister, I was informed that the Iranian army was deployed to Dhofar [in Oman] more than a month after the fact. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff did not get orders from me, nor did army generals. I did not design foreign policy. The members of the Parliament interpreted the Constitution in a certain way. Why is the prime minister being held liable for this?

“The honorable judge asked me why I was not aware of the work of SAVAK. I was informed of some of its work when I was outside Iran. I traveled abroad more than any other prime minister, and while travelling I was informed of certain issues, and Lieutenant General [Naser] Moqaddam helped me resolve some issues. Where was the head of the Supreme Court when those persons were tried by court martial? I was prime minister for 13 years. When did I order to attack the people with tanks and shoot them? When there were quarrels at the university, did I order to shoot? Did I give orders to the president of the university? You said that I did not have any authority in the sacred place of a university…”

Rejecting his charges regarding the Rastakhiz Party, Mr. Hoveyda stated: “I was the secretary-general of the Rastakhiz Party, but I was opposed to it, for I knew the Party would not be effective. You can only ask me, ‘Why did you stay in such a system?’ The laws were passed by the Parliament. Everybody was responsible.”

According to the Kayhan newspaper, Mr. Hoveyda ended his defense with comments about his private life: “I did not favor or disfavor anyone. Everything about my life is common knowledge. I said that I was not involved in economic corruption. You can double-check my statements. I was prime minister, but I led a simple life. I have an eighty-year-old mother, whom I love very much. I lost my father when I was 9 and my younger brother when I was 5. I am not wealthy. My house is reportedly controlled [now] by the Committee. I did not accept that my mother should come here and see me like this. It is better for her not to see this and to have only good memories.”

According to the Kayhan report on February 3, 1979, Mr. Hoveyda asked the court to hold another session, in order to give him further opportunity to defend himself and to provide him sufficient time to gather evidence and documents for his defense.

At the second session of the trial, on April 7, 1979, having read the indictment, the representative of the prosecutor told Mr. Hoveyda, “At the last session, you were informed of your charges, and you blamed the system… In your 13-year term, you betrayed the nation and allowed foreigners to rule our people. Under your administration, Iranian agriculture was ruined, and our industries, which should have progressed, were reduced to assembling parts imported from capitalist countries… Your long-terms plans resulted in the curtailment of the liberties of our people, and the country was plagued with oppression and censorship, so no one was able to speak freely, and journalists were forced to distort the truth for the benefit of the Shah, while you were responsible for carrying out his orders.”

Mr. Hoveyda replied: “We worked in a system where everybody served the regime. Any plan that the government implemented was designed by a group of experts in ministries, which recommended the plan to the government. The government would either approve the plan or leave it to the discretion of the Parliament. I think, in that system, it was the duty of the Parliament and the National Council not to approve laws contrary to people’s interests. If the government violated the law, the head of the Supreme Court had the duty of informing the executive branch of the violation.”

When the presiding judge asked him, “If the system was to blame, who were you?” Mr. Hoveyda responded: “I was only a manager. When I was informed that I would be tried at an Islamic Revolutionary Tribunal, I was happy that there is justice in such a tribunal. Hence, I tried to speak honestly and courageously. Therefore, I audaciously say, you speak as if I were the monarch, and the monarch were prime minister. According to the Constitution, the monarch was the ultimate head of the executive branch. All of us, maybe even you, had to comply with his orders.” He also said: “The system was what it was. I had not built the system. There were prime ministers before me who worked in the system. I only continued their work; I did not create the system.”

The representative of the Prosecutor stated: “Mr. Hoveyda, you said the same things at the previous session and blamed the system. The court is not trying you; it is trying the system, of which you were the representative and the executive. In that system, the people were ignored and the country was under the influence of foreigners. SAVAK brutally tortured our youth and activists and killed them. Let me ask you, did you approve of the system, the work that you continued?” Mr. Hoveyda replied: “I was not aware of what SAVAK did. International organizations informed me of the torture inflicted by SAVAK agents. The head of SAVAK was my under-secretary, but he did not receive orders from me and he did not report to me. SAVAK and foreign policy makers, as well as experts on agriculture and the economy, were in direct contact with the Shah, through their respective authorities, and the Shah announced his decisions [to them].”

 The presiding judge told Mr. Hoveyda: “The objective of these trial sessions is to discover the truth. But you only repeat what you said before. If you have something else to say, go on.” Mr. Hoveyda answered: “I have nothing to say other than what I already said. You tell me not to get into details. Without going into details, I cannot say much more. I ask the youth who were tortured by SAVAK to forgive me. I too have been arrested and interrogated by SAVAK.”

Mr. Hoveyda closed his comments at the trial by saying: “If given some time, I would like to write a book explaining the events which took place from August 1941 until the last day of my administration” (Kayhan).

Mr. Fereidun Hoveyda, the brother of Mr. Amir Abbas Hoveyda, wrote an open letter to Mr. Bazargan, then prime minister, stating: “It is common knowledge that my brother was not personally corrupt and never gave criminal orders... [M]y brother was a patriot who served the country to the extreme limits possible under the regime” (published in The New York Times). Mr. Fereidun Hoveyda also wrote, in an article published in Le Monde, that his brother was “one of the most honest and courageous persons among his colleagues; honest because Amir Abbas did not gather wealth in his fourteen years of service, and courageous because… he refused to leave the country when he could… My brother vehemently wanted a public trial. But the new authorities denied him such a trial even though it could have judged the previous regime… Why was someone who could clarify many issues secretly and defenselessly eliminated?”


According to Kayhan, on the afternoon of April 7, 1979, the Islamic Revolutionary Tribunal, after an hour of deliberation, called Mr. Amir Abbas Hoveyda a “corruptor on earth” and a “traitor to the nation” and condemned him to death. He was executed the afternoon of same day.

According to Mr. Milani, Mr. Hoveyda’s family interred his body a few months after the execution, in a nameless grave in the public cemetery in Tehran.


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