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

Hossein Takb'alizadeh

About

Age: 23
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Presumed Muslim
Civil Status: Single

Case

Date of Execution: September 4, 1980
Location: Abadan, Khuzestan Province, Iran
Mode of Killing: Shooting
Charges: Murder

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.

Trials

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, some or all of the following human rights may have been violated in this case:

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.

 

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

 

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 was a child when he lost his father. Poverty, addiction, and lack of family bonds led him and hundreds of people who went to the cinema in Abadan to a tragic end.

News of Hossein Takb’alizadeh and five other individuals’ execution was published in Kayhan (September 4, 1980) and Ettela’at (September 6, 1980) newspapers. Additional information was obtained through Abdorrahman Boroumand Center’s interviews with persons with knowledge of the case, and from the following audio, video, and print files: Video from a total of 50 hours of [the city of] Abadan’s Cinema Rex Special Tribunal, including 49 videos totaling more than 19 hours of footage, published in the Tarikh-e Shafahi (“Oral History”) website; the book “Behind the Scenes of the Islamic Revolution, the Confessions of Hossein Borujerdi,” by Bahram Choubineh, published in France, 2002; the book “The Tragedy of Cinema Rex, the Islamic Revolution’s Fire,” by Majid Ahmadian, published in France, February 2015; a series of articles entitled “Who are the true perpetrators of Abadan’s Cinema Rex [Fire ]” published by the Enghelab-e Eslami Newspaper in Exile, 2015; “The Cinema Rex Fire Special Program,” by Radio Farda, 2005; and other sources. [1] 

Mr. Takb’alizadeh, child of Ali, was a single man from and residing in Abadan. He had a sixth grade education and his main profession was welding. (Mr. Takb’alizadeh’s defense in the Abadan’s Cinema Rex Special Tribunal’s second session, August 25, 1980). 

Mr. Takb’alizadeh lost his father as a child. His stepfather was an addict and made a living with Mr. Takb’alizadeh’s mother selling soft drinks by the road side. They lived in poverty. Mr. Takb’alizadeh was an addict until the first political demonstrations in the city of Abadan in 1977, and had even sold drugs. According to the Special Prosecutor, Mr. Takb’alizadeh was not an addict at the time of the trial in August 1980. (Boroumand Center research). 

Mr. Takb’alizdeh’s case is related to Abadan’s Cinema Rex fire on August 19, 1978. 

Mr. Takb’alizadeh was 23 years old at the time of his execution. 

Mr. Takb’alizadeh and Abadan’s Religious Circle 

In the years before the Revolution, different religious and non-religious groups were active in the city of Abadan. Various evidence indicates that “the magnitude of these struggles in the city [of Abadan] was never to the extent that it was in Qom and other cities” like Esfahan and Tehran. (Enghelab-e Eslami Newspaper in Exile, August 3 to August 16, 1985; Boroumand Center interview with a local political activist). One of these active revolutionary groups was the city’s religious circle that conducted its activities around the Esfahaniha Hosseinieh (a “hosseinieh’ is a religious center resembling a mosque named after the fourth Shi’a Imam, Hossein). Mr. Mussavi Tabrizi said this about that hosseinieh: “Abadan’s Esfahaniha Hosseinieh had the same influence and effect in attracting enlightened and revolutionary students and non-students in Abadan as Tehran’s Ershad Hosseinieh, and transformed Abadan’s ambiance to a revolutionary and religious one.” This small religious group was in contact with other religious-revolutionary individuals in Abadan such as Mohammad Rashidian, a high school literature teacher and religious activist, as well as with groups in other cities. The group engaged in recruiting members, distributing Mr. Khomeini’s pamphlets, and organizing speeches. (Boroumand Center research). 

In 1977, Mr. Takb’alizadeh, who was an addict at the time, was introduced to the city’s religious circles through one of his neighborhood friends named Asghar Noruzi. At the same time, he started associating with Abdollah Lorghaba and other individuals including Faraj Bazrkar. He promised his new friends in their first meeting that he would quit his addiction. Mr. Lorghaba, and people who gathered at his house for the purpose of conducting religious-revolutionary activities, established close friendly relations with Hossein [Takb’alizadeh]. (Kayhan newspaper, August 31, 1980). Mr. Takb’alizadeh was closest to Mr. Bazrkar’s in that circle.

Mr. Takb’alizadeh was introduced to activists in Esfahan through another individual who frequented Mr. Lorghaba’s home named Mahmud Abolpur. Since Mr. Takb’alizadeh travelled back and forth to Esfahan because his grandmother lived there, he also established contact with that city’s religious activists in order to obtain books and notes. (Mr. Takb’alizadeh’s defense in the Abadan’s Cinema Rex Special Tribunal’s second session, August 25, 1980). Ali Akbar Parvaresh was active in the city of Abadan at the time. Mr. Parvaresh was one of Esfahsn’s political-religious activists who were in contact with Seyyed Mohammad Beheshti before the Revolution. (Boroumand Center research). 

In the early months (March- April) of 1978, Mr. Takb’alizadeh introduced several other friends from his neighborhood, namely, Fallah Mohammadi Hashemi and Yadollah Mohammadpur Hosseini, aka Zaghi, to Koran classes established by Mr. Lorghaba. Mr. Takb’alizadeh and Mr. Bazrkar stopped attending after a few sessions because they deemed the classes useless compared to actual revolutionary activities. (Mr. Takb’alizadeh’s defense in the Abadan’s Cinema Rex Special Tribunal’s second session, August 25, 1980). Mr. Takb’alizadeh’s contact with Mr. Lorghaba and Abadan’s religious people was not completely severed, however. Mr. Lorghaba stated in court: “I would see him every once in a while at mosques and speeches, and we would sometimes listen to tapes of speeches [together] and read pamphlets at his or my home.” 

Mr. Lorghaba stated that the rumors heard round town about Abadan not being revolutionary enough, and about its social conditions, had an effect on Mr. Takb’alizadeh maintaining a revolutionary mindset: “The guys from Esfahan, Mashhad, or Qom would say things like ‘let’s send some bras for the Abadanis’, and that had an effect on the guys’ spirits.” (Kayhan newspaper, August 31, 1980). 

A short while before the arson at Abadan’s Cinema Rex on August 19, 1978, Mr. Takb’alizadeh and Mr. Bazrkar set fire to the Rastakhiz Party headquarters in Abadan but the damage to the building was minimal. (Abadan’s Cinema Rex Special Tribunal, second and sixth sessions, August 25 and 27, 1980). 

Mr. Takb’alizadeh mentioned reproducing (Xeroxing) and distributing leaflets, specifically Mr. Khomeini’s announcements, as examples of other activities conducted by himself and Mr. Bazrkar in supporting the activities of religious groups in Abadan. (Abadan’s Cinema Rex Special Tribunal, second session, August 25, 1980). 

About Abadan’s Cinema Rex 

“Abadan’s Cinema Rex was delimited on all four sides to main and secondary streets. The cinema was located on the second floor of a building with stores and a galleria on the lower level, and located a hundred meters from the Police precinct.” (Abadan’s Cinema Rex Special Tribunal, first session, August 25, 1980). [2] 

Cinema Rex Arson 

A short while after he stopped attending Koran classes, Mr. Takb’alizadeh became addicted to drugs again. He went to Esfahan in late July 1978, to kick his addiction. He left Esfahan for [the city of] Ahvaz a few days before August 19, then to the town of Ramhormoz, and arrived at Abadan from Ramhormoz on August 19, 1978. (Abadan’s Cinema Rex Special Tribunal, ninth session, August 29, 1980). 

That same day, Mr. Bazrkar informed Mr. Takb’alizadeh of his and their two other friends’, Fallah Mohammadi and Yadollah Mohammadpur’s decision to set fire to Cinema Soheila, and Mr. Takb’alizadeh accepted to participate “without question”. (Mr. Takb’alizadeh’s confessions in court, August 25, 1980). The arson of Cinema Soheila was not successful. They subsequently procured flammable materials once again, and, upon Mr. Bazrkar’s insistence, went back to Cinema Soheila for a second time, but this time, they could not buy tickets. On their way back, Mr. Bazrkar suggested that they carry out the operation at Cinema Rex, and without taking the others’ opinion into consideration, proceeded to purchase tickets for the last showing of the movie “Gavazn-ha” (“The Deers”). (Boroumand Center research). 

About forty minutes after the movie had started (it had started before 9 PM), all four individuals, Messrs. Bazrkar, Takb’alizadeh, Mohammadpur, and Mohammadi, exited the movie theatre to carry out the arson. (Abadan’s Cinema Rex Special Tribunal, fourth session, August 26, 1980). They poured the materials on both sides of the entrance to the theatre and Mr. Takb’alizadeh threw a match into the materials. All went back into the theatre, with the exception of Mr. Mohammadi [3]. Mr. Mohammadi’s body was never found. (Abadan’s Cinema Rex Special Tribunal, first and fourth sessions, August 25 and 26, 1980).

As one person screamed, the rest of the audience realized there was a fire and “they went toward the screen where there was a door that led to the stairs that led to the exit to the street. Several people broke the door down. Those who noticed the broken door, rushed to the door to save themselves.” Mr. Takb’alizadeh exited the theatre pushed by these people. (Mr. Takb’alizadeh’s confessions in the Abadan’s Cinema Rex Special Tribunal, August 26, 1980). 

According to official reports published in the media at the time of the fire at Cinema Rex, 377 people burned in the fire. Unofficial reports indicate a higher number. According to the Cinema Rex manager, the theatre had a 600 person capacity. There is also disagreement about the number of people who did not perish, ranging between 20 to 70 people. (Transcript of the indictment, Abadan’s Cinema Rex Special Tribunal, first session, August 25, 1980).

After the fire, Mr. Khomeini and other religious and political groups, including national-religious as well as leftist groups, issued announcements in which they blamed Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi’s government and the SAVAK (the Shah’s secret police) for the tragic burning of spectators at Abadan’s Cinema Rex. (Enghelab-e Eslami Newspaper in Exile, August 17 to August 30, 2015). Hossein Borujerdi, a former revolutionary activist, has stated that he was the provider of the flammable materials used in the arson of Cinema Rex. Mr. Borujerdi has stated that there was a direct link between Abadan’s religious circle which included Messrs. Kiavash, Rashidian, Jami and Lorghaba, and individuals such as Mr. Mussavi Tabrizi, who presided over the Cinema Rex Special Tribunal, regarding the case. (The book “Behind the Scenes of the Islamic Revolution, 2002). Mr. Mussavi stated in an interview that he travelled to Ahvaz and Abadan during various time frames and that he was in Abadan in the days before the fire in the movie theatre. Mr. Mussavi has not denied relations with Mr. Rashidian and other religious activists in Abadan. (Iranian History, 2012). Ali Moradkhani Arangeh, better known as Sheikh or Master Ali Tehrani, who was in charge of Ahvaz revolutionary courts for a time in 1979-80, and another person with knowledge of the case, consider the role of religious activists in the fire as proven and unquestionable based on the case that was opened for the arson in 1978. The latter case, opened under the Shah’s government, never became public, however, and the role religious activists played in the training, encouraging, and guiding of the group that set fire to Cinema Rex was never investigated by any court. (Boroumand Center research, interview with people with knowledge of the case). 

On August 23, 1978, representatives for Grand Ayatollahs Seyyed Mohammad Reza Golpayegani, Seyyed Shahbeddin Najafi Marashi, and Seyyed Kazem Shariatmadari, were dispatched to Abadan to prepare a report on the tragedy. (Kayhan newspaper, August 23, 1978). The report was never published and its fate is unknown. Hassan Shariatmadari, Ayatollah Shariatmadari’s son, has stated that the report was possibly among the documents taken from his father’s office by security officials after he was subjected to house arrest. (Radio Farda, Special Report on Abadan’s Cinema Rex, Part 3, August 21, 2005). 

A few days after the fire at Cinema Rex, there was a fire at Jamshidieh’s Bazaar Safa. (Abadan’s Cinema Rex Special Tribunal, third session, August 26, 1980). According to some members of the families of the Cinema Rex arson victims, the fire started from Mr. Bazrkar’s store at the Bazaar. They believe the fire was started to destroy documents and evidence that, if found, could provide clues about the fire at Cinema Rex. (Paykar publication, Cinema Rex Tragedy Anniversary Special Edition, August 16, 1980). 

History of Setting Fire to Movie theatres and Recreation Centers 

Cinema Rex is the last reported case of arson of movie theatres prior to the Revolution. Before Cinema Rex, 29 other movie theatres had been set ablaze in various Iranian cities, the reports or news of which were published in the media. Based on various sources, a radical Moslem group accepted responsibility for or welcomed their occurrence. Movie theatres were not the only venues that were set on fire. Night clubs were also among recreation centers that were attacked. The explosion and total destruction of the Qom cinema in 1975, which some have attributed to an order issued by Ahmad Khomeini (interview with Hassan Lahuti, Kayhan newspaper, December 13, 1979) and some to Ali Andarzgu, a close ally of Mr. Khomeini (Hamshahri Magazines Group, February 2, 2011), is one of the clearest instances of religious institutions’ hand and role in destroying cultural centers. One night before the burning of Cinema Rex, Cinema Arya was set on fire in the city of Mashhad, in which three people were killed. This and other movie theatres were set ablaze when they were closed. The individuals killed in Cinema Arya were workers who were sleeping at the theatre for the night. In April 1978, newspapers reported the prevention of a fire at a movie theatre in the town of Ilam where it could have constituted the first fire at a cinema with spectators in attendance, before Cinema Rex. (Ettela’at newspaper, April 3, 1978). 

Less than a month after the fire at Cinema Rex, Mr. Khomeini, who was in France at the time, stated this concerning attacks on cinemas and banks: “The Shah’s cinema is a center for prostitution and training of little misguided people; the Moslem people considers such centers contrary to the interests of the country, and considers them apt for destruction even without any orders issued by the clergy. Of course, the [fire] at the Abadan cinema was done at the hands of the Shah’s cronies so that the ‘great fear’ that the Shah had claimed his opposition promises, could become reality.” (Sahifeh Imam, Volume 3, 1989, date of the interview: September 14, 1978). 

Farajollah Salahshur, an Islamic republic-approved filmmaker, and Hossien Borujerdi, a revolutionary activist, have expressly spoken of their roles in setting movie theatres and nightclubs on fire. (Fars News Agency, February 11, 2013; “Behind the Scenes of the Islamic Revolution”, 2002). 

Background of the Case Against Individuals Accused of the Cinema Rex Arson 

A short time after the fire at Abadan’s Cinema Rex, Mohammad Baqer Sarrafi, Investigating Judge, and Gholamreza Zarrabi, Prosecutor, were designated to prosecute the case. The case was in the investigation stage when the occurrence of the Iranian Revolution in February 1979 stopped it in its tracks. (Boroumand Center research). Upon the victims’ families’ persistent follow-ups, a second adjudication of the case was undertaken by the Abadan General Prosecutor’s Office under [then-prime minister] Mehdi Bazargan’s government.

In April 1979, upon issuance of a lack of jurisdiction order, the case was removed from the General Prosecutor’s Office to Abadan Revolutionary Court. (Kayhan newspaper, August 31, 1980). At the time, Abdolhamid Zargar was simultaneously Abadan’s General and Revolutionary Prosecutor. Various sources cite Mr. Zarrabi, the previous prosecutor in the case, and an individual named Sabbaghian, as investigating judges at this juncture in the proceedings. (Boroumand Center research). These investigations and interrogations which included interrogation of Mr. Takb’alizadeh and around 30 of the people accused of the arson of Cinema Rex, constituted a 600-page case file. (Kayhan newspaper, July 29, 1980). 

In July 1979, Mr. Zargar, Abadan’s revolutionary Prosecutor, announced the resignation of the investigating judge and the dispatch of the case to Ahvaz Revolutionary Court. (July 23, 1979). “Political pressure” and rumors about “the people in charge of investigating the Cinema Rex case belonging to a particular political group” were announced as the reasons for the investigating judge’s decision. (Kayhan, July 29, 1980). The judicial process having come to a halt, the victims’ families requested assistance from the Bar Association. In a telegraph sent to the Revolutionary Prosecutor General, the Bar Association announced its readiness to follow through with the case. (Kayhan newspaper, February 7, 1980). There is no information about the results of this correspondence. 

At the same time that the news of the Cinema Rex case having been forwarded to Ahvaz Revolutionary Court was announced, a separate piece of news came out that Mr. Abolghassem Sattarian, Ahvaz Revolutionary Prosecutor and newly-appointed Khuzestan Province Prosecutor General (Kayhan, June 3, 1979), had resigned due to what was labeled “exercising [undue] influence”. (Kayhan, uly 23, 1979). None of the news and information regarding Abadan’s Cinema Rex case mentions anything about the Ahvaz Prosecutor’s role in examining the case and setting up a trial. (Boroumand Center research). Upon Mr. Khomeini’s order, Ali Tehrani headed the Ahvaz courts for a short time prior to the appointment of Mr. Gholamhossein Sadeghi Qahareh. He subsequently returned to Mashhad from Ahvaz in 1979 and quit being a judge. (The book “My Memoirs”, published in France, 2015). In a letter to then-President Abolhassan Bani Sadr dated June 22, 1980, Cinema Rex victims’ families asked that Mr. Tehrani be dispatched to the region to conduct the trial. (Kayhan, June 22, 1980). 

On April 29, 1980, several newspapers published reports of two special judges having been dispatched to investigate the Cinema Rex case. (Ettela’at newspaper, April 29, 1980). There is no information about the details of this news. 

Seyyed Hossein Naghibi held a press conference as the Cinema Rex Tribunal’s Special Prosecutor in the last week of July. (Kayhan, July 29, 1980). After the Tribunal was over, Mr. Naghibi stated that “the local prosecutor” was “afraid” to convene a trial because of “the politicized atmosphere” and “rumors about the State having been involved in setting the cinema ablaze”. (Kayhan, August 31, 1980). Some believe the reason for the delay in adjudicating the case was “obstruction” by the Abadan Committee and individuals who were among Mr. Rashidian’s entourage or supporters. Mr. Rashidian is presumed to be an individual who was in direct or indirect contact with the perpetrators of the arson at Cinema Rex. (Enghelab-e Eslami Newspaper in Exile, September 27 to October 11, 1985). Mohammad Rshidian was the person in charge of the Abadan Committee when Mr. Takb’alizadeh was arrested, and at the time of the trial, was the elected representative of the people of the city of Behbahan in the Islamic Consultative Assembly (“Parliament”). (Abadan’s Cinema Rex Special Tribunal, fifth session, August 27, 1980). 

Arrest and detention

After the fire at Cinema Rex, Mr. Takb’alizadeh was on the run in Abadan and Esfahan for some time. He was arrested in Esfahan on December 25, 1978, and was ordered detained without bail. Mr. Takb’alizadeh claimed at the Cinema Rex Special Tribunal, that he had been tortured during his first detention under the Shah’s regime. (Abadan’s Cinema Rex Special Tribunal, second session, August 25, 1980). 

When the doors of the Abadan Prison were opened on February 12, 1979 , the day after the 1979 Revolution, Mr. Takb’alizadeh left detention. He went to Esfahan and from there to Qom. According to Mr. Takb’alizadeh, his intention in going to Qom was to introduce himself to Mr. Khomeini or his entourage as the person responsible for the Cinema Rex fire, but had not been able to do so. He was branded a “SAVAK criminal” by certain publications at the time. In Abadan, Mr. Takb’alizadeh reached out to the people in charge of Abadan’s Committee and asked for their help; upon the advice of local officials, he stayed home for about two weeks and was then sent to Tehran accompanied by a member of the Ashayer Committee. Upon the advice of officials in charge, he stayed in Esfahan for more than three months and during that time, he corresponded with Tehran officials and Mr. Khomeini in Qom to seek clarification on his situation. Ultimately, upon obtaining a letter of introduction from Mr. Khomeini’s office in Qom, Mr. Takb’alizadeh returned to Abadan. 

On May 27, 1979, Mr. Takb’alizadeh was arrested at his home in Abadan before he could ever use his letter of introduction, and was kept in detention until the start of the Cinema Rex Special Tribunal in August 1980. (Abadan’s Cinema Rex Special Tribunal, first session, August 25, 1980). The families of the Cinema Rex tragedy’s victims played an active role in Mr. Takb’alizadeh’s second arrest. (Abadan’s Cinema Rex Special Tribunal, fifth session, August 27, 1980). 

After the arrest, he was first taken to the Guardian House near the Qal’eh warehouse, and was then transferred to Committee 48. [4] At the Committee, Mr. Rashidian called Mr. Takb’alian “the SAVAKI fugitive”. He was then transferred to the Revolutionary Court Hostel and interrogated. Mr. Takb’alizadeh spent some time in solitary confinement at the Military Police, and spent the last months of his mandatory detention at Abadan’s Shahrbani (“Police Force”) prison. 

In a letter and audio cassette to Cinema Rex victims’ families, Mr. Takb’alizadeh objected to the uncertainty of his situation and stated that this was done for the purpose of taking the spotlight away from people he said were the main perpetrators, whom he did not name. He and the other defendants complained to judicial officials about prison conditions in Abadan’s hot weather and about the uncertainty of their case for 14 months. (Abadan’s Cinema Rex Special Tribunal, fifth and thirteenth sessions, August 27 and 31, 1980; Boroumand Center interview with a person with knowledge of the case). 

The families of Abadan’s Cinema Rex fire’s victims had been pursuing justice for their loved ones since the fire. These follow-ups continued after the 1979 Revolution. With the delay caused in the proceedings in the first months of 1979, they conducted several demonstrations in Abadan, and corresponded with officials including the Leader of the Revolution, Mr. Khomeini, and then-President Bani Sadr. The victims’ families started a sit-in at Abadan’s Tax Administration on April 21, 1980. (Paykar Publication, August 16, 1980). Some leftist political groups that were active in Abadan supported the victims’ families’ demonstrations and sit-in, and this resulted at times in violent conflict between these leftist groups, the demonstrators, and government forces such as members of Abadan’s Islamic Revolution Committee and the Revolutionary Guards Corps. (Ettela’at newspaper, April 29, 1980; Victims’ families’ letter to Mr. Khomeini; Boroumand Center interview with a person with knowledge of the case). The victims’ families’ demonstrations continued until August 18 and 19, 1980, the date of the second anniversary of the Cinema Rex fire. (Ettela’at newspaper, August 20, 1980). 

Trial

News of the establishment of Abadan’s Cinema Rex Special Tribunal presided by Seyyed Hossein Mussavi Tabrizi, was published in newspapers on August 23. (Kayhan newspaper, August 23, 1980). The Tribunal began its work on August 25, 1980 in Cinema Taj, owned by Abadan’s Oil Company employees. In addition to Mr. Mussavi Tabrizi [5], the Tribunal included Special Prosecutor Seyyed Hossein Naghibi, jurist and Tribunal Representative Mojtaba Mirmehdi, and Special Investigating Judge Hossein Dadgar. (Boroumand Center research).

Cinema Rex Special Tribunal convened in 18 sessions from August 25 to September 5, 1980, where 32 defendants were tried for about 50 hours. Six defendants were tried in absentia. (Boroumand Center research). 

The Special Tribunal controlled entry of people into the courtroom as spectators by issuing them special cards. (Enghelab-e Eslami Newspaper in Exile, September 27 to October 11, 1985). According to reports, Mr. Takb’alizadeh’s mother was not able to attend the first trial session. (Ettela’at newspaper, August 26, 1980). There is no information about whether she attended other trial sessions. A person with knowledge of the case stated that some of the victms’ families who had made great efforts to establish the Tribunal, including Mr. Sazesh, who had lost five members of his family in the fire, were denied the possibility of attending certain trial sessions. It is said that as many as 700 people had attended the trial as spectators. (Boroumand Center interview with a person with knowledge of the case. 

The Tribunal granted the victims’ families’ request that the trial be broadcast live on Abadan Television. (Enghelab-e Eslami Newspaper in Exile September 27 to October 11, 1985). According to available information, however, the live broadcast was halted after a few days, and the trial was broadcast selectively and with a time delay on local TV. (“The Cinema Rex Tragedy”, 2014; interview with a person with knowledge of the case). Currently, of the approximately 50 hours of trial, only 19 hours of video is available to the public. The summary of some of the sessions is also available in the archives of the press of the time. Portions of certain sessions dealing primarily with many of the defendants’ first and final defense, however, and most defendants’ final defense, including Mr. Takb’alizadeh’s, as well as some of the testimony related to his case, have not been published in their entirety. 

During some of the court sessions, especially when the defendant, the judges, or witnesses were describing the details of what had happened inside the theatre when the fire was raging, the courtroom became agitated to such an extent that the court had to announce a recess several times. In some sessions, several members of the audience were expelled from the courtroom. From the explanations provided by the judges, it appears that they were thrown out because they were “chanting slogans” or had become “emotional”, even though the court did not stop spectators to chant slogan against Mr. Takb’alizadeh in the last session. (Boroumand Center research). 

A few days before the Abadan’s Cinema Rex Special Tribunal convened, Abadan and Khorramshahr Revolutionary Prosecutor’s Office issued an order banning the activities of several groups and organizations in these two cities, including The Mujahedeen Khalq Organization, Paykar [6], and the Tudeh Party. (Kayhan, August 23, 1980). Paykar Organization had played a significant role in disseminating the news related to the victims’ families’ demonstrations and sit-in. Much of the materials published in [Paykar’s] publication were reflected in trial sessions. (Boroumand Center research). 

Eyewitnesses reported the pulling of newspapers and publications related to these groups from newspaper and magazine stands in Abadan by the city’s Committee. (Enghelab-e Eslami Newpaper In Exile, September 27 to October 11, 1985). Ali Fallahian was in charge of Abadan’s Committees at the time. (Khesht-e Kham Compilation, Hossein Dehbashi’s Conversation with Ali Fallahian, July 9, 2017). 

Charges

Mr. Hossein Takb’alizadeh was tried as Defendant Number 1 in the Cinema Rex arson case. He was charged with causing the murder of the spectators through “procuring flammable materials, spreading the materials in the movie theatre, and setting the theatre on fire”. (Cinema Rex Special Tribunal, first session, August 25, 1980). 

Evidence of guilt

The indictment prepared against Abadan’s Cinema Rex arson case defendants, including Mr. Takb’alizadeh, was based on “complaints, testimonies, tapes and documents obtained from the SAVAK and the Police, the confessions of a number of the defendants [including Mr. Takb’alizadeh], and investigations conducted at the scene of the crime. (Transcript of the indictment, Abadan’s Cinema Rex Special Tribunal, first session, August 25, 1980). Although the portions of the indictment related to Mr. Takb’alizadeh makes no reference to his connection with the SAVAK regarding setting fire to Cinema Rex, some of the evidence presented in court was related to SAVAK personnel’s involvement in the burning of the theatre and their connection to the principal perpetrators of the fire, including Mr. Takb’alizadeh. (Boroumand Center research). 

At Abadan’s Cinema Rex Special Tribunal, Mr. Takb’alizadeh accepted the charges of participation in setting fire to Cinema Rex but denied any connection to any groups, including the SAVAK. (Boroumand center research). 

A very large portion of the evidence cited by the court was dismissed and denied by some of the witnesses and most of the defendants, but was nevertheless relied on by the court. In order to confirm certain claims, the court used handwritten material submitted to it by the participants during trial session, without identifying them by name and without conducting an investigation. (Boroumand Center research). A number of the witnesses who were themselves accused of being involved in the fire by some of the victims’ families (Paykar Publication, August 16, 1980) had been questioned in writing and outside of the court setting, and their responses were read in court by the Special Prosecutor. (Abadan’s Cinema Rex Special Tribunal, fifth session, August 27, 1980). 

Among things that were questioned by the court were the contradictions in Mr. Takb’alizadeh’s statements at various stages of the proceedings. (Boroumand Center research).

The evidence related to Mr. Takb’alizadeh’s case includes, in summary form, the following: 

-          Letters Mr. Takb’alizadeh had written prior to his second arrest while he was in jail were among the evidence the court examined. Upon reading a summary of these letters, the Special Prosecutor made Mr. Takb’alizadeh admit that he had not introduced himself as the perpetrator of the Cinema Rex arson to any of the officials [to whom they were addressed]. Mr. Takb’alizadeh admitted most of those [instances]. (Abadan’s Cinema Rex Special Tribunal, fifth session, August 27, 1980). 

-          One of the witnesses the court used to prove Mr. Takb’alizadeh and his partners’ connection to the SAVAK, was an individual named Rahim Mirsofiani, one of Faraj Bazrkar’s relatives. The Special Prosecutor, Mr. Naghibi, and the Presiding Judge, Mr. Mussavi Tabrizi, announced during various trial sessions that Mr. Mirsofini had been arrested and continued to be questioned. This individual was never brought to the Cinema Rex Special Tribunal, nor were the results of the questioning ever published. The court did conclude, nevertheless, that he was a SAVAK operative. (Boroumand Center research). 

-          The court also used the testimony of several witnesses to prove that Mr. Takb’alizadeh’s connection to the city of Abadan’s religious circle was simply for the purpose of “saving him from the scourge of addiction”, and that the circle had no involvement with the Cinema Rex arson. Messrs. Lorghaba and Noruzi’s statements were used by the court to that end. Mr. Lorghaba conducted Koran classes and was one of Abadan’s religious activists, and Mr. Noruzi was the person who established Mr. Takb’alizadeh’s connection to Abadan’s religious circle. (Boroumand Center research). 

-          Although the court officially announced that, according to expert reports, the flammable material used in setting off the fire at the Cinema was airplane fuel, it was only in the last session that it addressed the rumor that Mr. Lorghaba had been the person who had provided the material. In that session, Mr. Mussavi Tabrizi dismissed the contention that Mr. Lorghaba was an airline employee and had access to airplane fuel and said: “It has been established that August 19, the day of the tragedy, was the first day that Mr. Lorghaba was to be employed [at the airline].” No evidence or documentation was ever presented to prove [Mr. Mussavi Tabrizi’s] claim. (Boroumand Center research). 

-          Many of the claims made by several of the victims of the Cinema Rex fire’s families which were presented in announcements they had published earlier, were either not brought forth at trial or were left unanswered and unexamined. (Paykar, Abadan’s Cinema Rex Tragedy Anniversary Special Edition, August 16, 1980). Included among the claims made by the victims’ families were the role that individuals such as Messrs. Jami and Azari Qomi had played in delaying the adjudication of the case, which the court addressed simply by citing some of Mr. Takb’alizadeh’s letters, without taking into account the families’ questions and concerns. (Boroumand Center research). 

Defense

Mr. Takb’alizadeh proceeded to defend himself in at least 7 of the 18 sessions of the Abadan’s Cinema Rex Special Tribunal. He presented his first defense in sessions two to six, from August 25 to August 27, 1980. Then, in parts of the sixth and ninth sessions on August 27 and 29, 1980, he answered questions and addressed ambiguities put forth by witnesses and the Prosecutor. Mr. Takb’alizadeh presented his final defense in the last trial session on September 5, 1980.

None of the defendants in the Abadan’s Cinema Rex Special Tribunal, including Mr. Takb’alizadeh, had an attorney while presenting their defense. Available information indicates that they did not have access to an attorney prior to the proceedings either, and had received no legal advice or consultation. (Boroumand Center research). In an interview he gave in 2012, the Presiding Judge, Mr. Mussavi Tabrizi, stated: “The defendants had the right to an attorney.” In one of the trial sessions, however, addressing a witness who had introduced himself as the attorney for one of the victims’ families, the Tribunal’s Special Prosecutor stated: “We do not recognize anyone as an attorney at this Tribunal… We do not have attorneys and clients here. We only recognize individuals as themselves and who they are. (Abadan’s Cinema Rex Special Tribunal, fourteenth session, September 1, 1980). 

In his defense, Mr. Takb’alizadeh denied involvement with any organization in setting fire to the theatre, including the SAVAK, and emphasized that he had believed that what he was doing was taking a step “in the path of the Revolution”. (Abadan’s Cinema Rex Special Tribunal, third session, August 26, 1980). 

In further justifying his action in “setting fire to the cinema” as a “revolutionary act”, Mr. Takb’alizadeh told the court: “Setting fires to movie theatres was happening all across Iran.” [7]

At the closing of his final defense in court, Mr. Takb’alizadeh addressed the Court and the audience and said: “I have nothing more to say; I just ask you and the people to investigate Abdollah Lorghaba.”

The Head of the Special Tribunal, Mr. Mussavi Tabrizi responded to Mr. Takb’alizadeh’s assertion: “That, [i.e., burning down a cinema while a movie is being shown with spectators in attendance] has not happened anywhere in Iran. Well! [Yes,] fires have been set to the entrance of a movie theatre that was closed at the time. There was even a bomb that was set off in a closed movie theatre in the city of Qom [with such precise timing that not even] a single person, even the theatre’s keeper [who is always there] was hurt. Even at times where the power in the city was out and the people were not bothered by the power outage. Walls of closed theatres have been burned down, the marquis have been burned, [etc.]” 

Mr. Takb’alizadeh retorted: “I never witnessed any of these fires [that you’re talking about] to see where and what it was they were setting fire to and what they weren’t setting fire to. That’s the plain, honest truth. I hadn’t thought about it at all.” 

In the course of the Tribunal, the Special Prosecutor, Mr. Naghibi, read Mr. Takb’alizadeh’s letters to government officials, the media, and the victims’ families, trying to assert that he had never accepted responsibility for setting fire to the cinema, but Mr. Takb’alizadeh objected and stated that he had informed Mr. Sabbaghian, the Temporary Government’s Interior Minister. He tried to show that Mr. Sabbaghian’s claim, that was discussed with the Special Prosecutor outside trial sessions, was contradictory. Mr. Takb’alizadeh’s claim was not, however, given any consideration by the court. (Abadan’s Cinema Rex Special Tribunal, fifth session, August 27, 1980). Furthermore, Mr. Rashidian, who had an official function in the Abadan Committee at the time Mr. Takb’alizadeh had gone to him, said in an interview: “I was working at Islamic Revolution Committee 48, when an individual named Hossein Takb’alizadeh came to me and said he was the one who had set fire to Cinema Rex. I initially didn’t believe him because I thought Abadan’s Cinema Rex tragedy was bigger for someone like him to be able to do by himself.” (Jamaran website, interview with Mohammad Rashidian, August 23, 2011).

Furthermore, Mr. Takb’alizadeh repeatedly denied Mr. Mirsofiani being a member of the SAVAK. In showing that Mr. Mirsofiani, a relative of Mr. Bazrkar, was a SAVAK member, the court intended to prove that setting fire to Cinema Rex had been carried out in coordination with the SAVAK. This was never proven in court with sufficient evidence. Another group has presented a completely different version of Mr. Mirsofiani, asserting that he was “an active operative of the Revolutionary Guards” and have questioned him ever having been a “SAVAK operative” under the Shah. (Boroumand Center research). 

Nevertheless, in the last session of the Special Tribunal, Mr. Mussavi said: “These proceedings have shown that there is a chance that the SAVAK has used Hossein Takb’alizadeh and the operatives’ naiveté to its advantage because, contrary to Marxists and Leninists, Islam does not believe that the end justifies the means. How can one believe that a Moslem would burn 400 people just so the Revolution can succeed.” (Kayhan newspaper, September 6, 1980. This was the first time the court considered Mr. Takb’alizadeh to be a Moslem. (Boroumand Center research). 

In the course of his defense, Mr. Takb’alizadeh denied the confessions he had made during interrogations in detention under the Shah’s regime and said that they were in correct. He also considered incorrect a number of the subjects raised against him in the indictment and denied having said parts of the statements ascribed to him. (Boroumand Center research).

At the close of the ninth trial session, after Mr. Takb’alizadeh had presented his first defense and responded to the claims made by several if the witnesses, and while the trial was ongoing, the Special Tribunal judges asked Mr. Takb’alizadeh to present his final defense, without any prior preparation. Upon Mr. Takb’alizadeh’s objection, the court gave him time until the last defendant’s first defense to present his final defense. (Abadan’s Cinema Rex Special Tribunal, ninth and tenth sessions, August 29 and 30, 1980). 

During his final defense, Mr. Takb’alizadeh talked once again about Mr. Lorghaba’s possible role in the Cinema Rex arson. According to Mr. Takb’alizadeh, confirmed by Mr. Lorghaba, he was among the first people who found out about Mr. Takb’alizadeh’s role in the arson immediately after the cinema was set ablaze; according to Mr. Lorghaba’s confession, however, the latter kept quiet “for the sake of the Revolution”. (Kayhan newspaper, August 31, 1980). Mr. Takb’alizadeh asked the court in this regard: “Abdollah Lorghaba says ‘when Hossein confessed that we had caused that tragedy, I told him to come and talk to me whenever he felt down’. A question comes up here: Why was Abdollah Lorghaba afraid that I would talk to someone else about this?” (Kayhan newspaper, September 6, 1980).

At the closing of his final defense in court, Mr. Takb’alizadeh addressed the Court and the audience and said: “I have nothing more to say; I just ask you and the people to investigate Abdollah Lorghaba.” (Kayhan newspaper, September 6, 1980) 

Judgment

After 18 sessions, Abadan’s Cinema Rex Special Tribunal started its deliberations on September 3, 1980, and in the early hours of the morning of September 4, 1980, pronounced the sentence of death for Mr. Takb’alizadeh and five other defendants. The sentence was carried out immediately. (Kayhan newspaper, September 4, 1980). 

There is no information regarding Mr. Takb’alizadeh’s place of execution and the fate of his body. 

In his memoirs, Ali Tehrani alludes to some members of the victims’ families’ dissatisfaction with the court’s decision. He even alludes to a meeting he had with Messrs. Sazesh and Radmehr who had lost 5 and 11 family members in the fire, respectively, in which they had asked for his assistance in preventing the execution of individuals they considered “innocent”. (Boroumand Center research). 

Although the court declared the SAVAK responsible for setting fire to Abadan’s Cinema Rex, the people who perished in the fire were never treated like other martyrs of the Revolution. There are certain reports of “the Abadan Municipality’s intent to destroy the mass grave of the victims of the Cinema Rex fire in the late 2000’s”. A child of one of the victims even talked of a [governmental] directive based on which “the families of the Cinema Rex victims were not even considered Martyrs’ families”. On that basis, this person was expelled from his neighborhood’s Martyrs’ School prior to the end of the school year. According to an Abadani writer, the subject of the Cinema Rex fire is “still a thorny issue, like a fire still burning under the ashes”. (Iranian History, August 14, 2012, Kayhan in London, August 19, 2015, Iranian History, August 17, 2012). 

----------------------------------------------------------------

[1] Other sources: Kayhan and Ettela’at newspapers archives; Iranian History Website’s interview with Hossein Mussavi Tabrizi, “The Cinema Rex fire was done by the SAVAK”, August 27, 2012; the book “My Memoirs”, by Ali Tehrani, written in 2002, published in February 2018 in France; Kayhan in London’s interview with a child of one of the Cinema Rex victims; Iranian History website’s interview with the Gheseye Shab documentary maker, “Everyone Keeps Silent about Cinema Rex”, August 14, 2012; Iranian History website’s interview with the author of “The Memoirs of Cinema Rex Martyrs’ Families, What Has been Left Unsaid About the Cinema Rex Fire”, August 17, 2012; Sadeq Khalkhali’s interview with Payam Fazlinejad, December 7, 2003. 
[2] The Cinema had one main entrance which opened from the main street to the waiting area outside the theatre itself. In addition to the main entrance, there was a small door used as an emergency door located behind the galleria and the theatre and was mostly locked and not used. On the night of the fire, the spectators who were caught in the fire were not able to use this door. Portions of the walls inside the theatre were decorated with wood and in order to prevent hot weather to penetrate into the theatre, Styrofoam was used throughout the entire area.” (Enghelab-e Eslami in Exile newspaper, August 17 to August 30, 1985). 
[3] Hossein Borujerdi has claimed that Fallah Mohammadi and Yadollah Mohammadpur have come out of the fire unscathed. According to Mr. Borujerdi, Mr. Mohammadi has left Iran and Mr. Mohammadpur has stayed in Iran. (Behind the scenes of the Islamic Revolution, 2002). According to available information, however, Mr. Mohammadpur’s body was identified after the fire. (Boroumand Center research). 
[4] Abadan’s Berim Neighborhood house number 48 became known as Committee 48 in the early months of the Revolution. The Committee was also known as “Abadan’s Revolution Council” to which many affairs were referred for decision-making and resolution purposes. Mohammad Rashidian, Mohammad Kiacvash, Ayatollah Jami, Mr. Dehdashti, and Mohammad Jafari were among the active and founding members of the Committee. Ali Fallahian was in charge of Abadan’s Committees at the time of the Cinema Rex Special Tribunal proceedings in August-September 1980. (Boroumand Center research). 
[5] Mr. Mussavi Tabrizi was an Islamic Consultative Assembly (Majless) representative when he was selected to head the Cinema Rex Special Tribunal. Upon a decree by Mr. Khomeini, he was permitted to supervise the Tribunal’s proceedings two days a week while still a Majless Representative and not be considered absent from the country’s legislative body. Later, the Guardian Council presented an interpretation of the law whereby that decree was declared legal, explaining “a person who is not employed by one of the Branches and is simply a Majless Representative, may engage in discharging the functions of a judge.” (Iranian History, August 26, 2012). 
[6] Paykar Organization, the full name of which is Paykar Organization for the Freedom of the Proletariat, is a branch that separated from the Mujahedeen Khalq Organization that changed its ideology from Islam to Marxism.  The organization was among the first to oppose the Islamic Republic regime, and many of its members and leaders were either killed or executed. 
[7] Mr. Takb’alizadeh is referring to at least 29 cases of arson of movie theatres before the revolution for which religious groups had either accepted direct responsibility, or had kept silent when faced with the assertion that they had been planned and implemented by them.
Please refer to the “Background of setting fire to cinemas and recreation centers” for further reading.

Correct/ Complete This Entry