Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

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

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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