Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

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

Iraj Matbu'i


Age: 81
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Islam
Civil Status: Married


Date of Killing: September 24, 1979
Location of Killing: Evin Prison, Tehran, Tehran Province, Iran
Mode of Killing: Shooting
Charges: Acts incompatible with chastity; Unspecified economic offense; Mass murder; Association with the Shah's idolatrous regime

About this Case

The execution of Mr. Iraj Matbu’i was announced in the Kayhan newspaper of September 24, 1979. Mr. Matbu’i, a senator under the previous regime, was tried along with two other senators, Mr. Mohsen Khajenuri and Mr. Jamshid A’lam. The reports of their trials were published in Kayhan from September 19 to September 24, 1979.

Arrest and detention

The circumstances of this defendant’s arrest and detention are not known.


Mr. Matbu’i was tried along with the other two senators in four sessions of the Central Islamic Revolutionary Tribunal. Trials were held at the Central Revolutionary Prosecutor’s Office located in Evin Prison.


According to the Kayhan report, the representative of the prosecutor presented the indictment as follows: “Retired Major General Iraj Matbu’i is accused of participation in the 1920 coup d’état that brought Reza Shah to power, mobilization of armed forces and issuing the order for the Goharshah Mosque massacre in Mashhad in 1935, confiscation of land that belonged to farmers, membership in the Senate and striving to stabilize the anti-people government of the now dethroned Shah, and public acts of indecency.”

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

Evidence of guilt

According to the newspaper, the evidence against Mr. Matnu’i included: “his confessions and the medal that he received for his participation in the coup d’état, admitting that as the Commander of the Brigade he had sent a battalion to the Goharshah Mosque, which resulted in 25 deaths and 40 injuries, widespread complaints by the residents of Mashad, complaints and testimonies of some farmers regarding the confiscation of their lands, which the accused registered under his own children’s names. We ask that all the funds be extracted from his bank accounts and those of his children, and that he be punished as an Enemy of God.”


After the indictment was presented, the presiding judge asked the accused, Iraj Matbu’i, to defend himself. He started his defense by saying: “I have 62 years of honest service behind me. I have never used the tribune of the parliament for words of flattery, and if things were said at the parliament with which I did not agree, I would be sure to get up and leave.

“About the 1920 coup d’état, I have to say that I was an Infantry Captain at the time and they moved our regiment from Qazvin to Tehran without any prior consultation with me. We arrived in Tehran on the morning of February 22nd with no trouble. Later they told us that the move had been part of a coup d’état. I was resting in my office when I heard gunshots and artillery fire. Later I heard that they had targeted the Police Department. This is all there is to my participation in the coup.

“About the Goharshah Mosque, the story was this: Someone by the name of Bohlul had arrived in Mashad by way of Tabas and Gonabad [all in Khorasan province] and was standing in the courtyard of Imam Reza Shrine, enticing people against the use of Pahlavi hats [similar to the French kepi, made official by Reza Shah to replace the traditional headgear for men]. Fathollah Pakravan, father of Major General Hassan Pakravan, was the Governor of Khorasan and he had ordered Colonel Bayat, the Chief of Police, to arrest the guy. As the Chief of Police went to the Shrine to make the arrest, somebody by the name of Asadi, who was the Vice Administrator of the Shrine, asked him not to interfere with the matter and assured him that he would take care of it personally. He, then, locked this person in one of rooms around the Shrine courtyard. The same evening, he was let out due to pressure from the people.

“I was entirely unaware of what had been going on regarding Bohlul’s arrest. I was at home when they informed me that the Governor and the Chief of Police had come to see me. They asked for my opinion as the Commander of the Division and requested that I send some infantry to the Shrine to take the revolt under control. I told them the matter could be taken care of quite smoothly by gently advising the religious authorities to advise the people against revolting. But they insisted that I send forces down to the Shrine. There were around 800 people sitting in at the Shrine by then. The Governor, the Chief of Police, and I each reported the matter to Tehran independently. The Governor told me that during his term as the Ambassador of Iran in Russia, they used to suppress similar revolts immediately through military force. Still, I did not bend to his will and told him that this was not Russia and that I could not agree with his suggestion. Then I received a response to my telegraph from the Shah’s office in Tehran. The response was extremely harsh and insulting. I am too ashamed to even repeat here some of the derogatory words that were used against me. They ordered me to immediately send some infantry for the Governor. I sent him about 250 soldiers but emphasized that they were only allowed to use maneuver bullets. At this time, Brigadier General Alborz and the Army Prosecutor arrived in Mashad and took control of the Brigade. He executed Asadi, the Vice Administrator of the Shrine, and put me under house arrest.

“Regarding the farmers’ complaints, all I have to say is that I had inherited the village of Khairabad, located across the road from Shahr-e Ray Refinery, from my father and I passed it on to my children.

“Concerning the allegations of indecent conduct as referred to in the indictment, I must say that I was asked no questions about this in the interrogations. I have no idea where this charge is coming from. I request that the matter be examined further.”

According to the Kayhan report of September 24, Brigadier General Matbu’i continued his defense with the following: “My reason for accepting the Ibn-e Sina Masonic Lodge was the history that Seyed Jamaleddin Asadabadi and Seyed Nasrollah Taqavi and Doctor Mohammad Mosaddeq have had with this Lodge.” He added: “Freemasonry for us was never about dependence on foreigners. Freemasons were holding the torch of liberty; they subscribed to the fundamentals of democracy. I was a member only for a short time due to my other engagements and since I had not paid my dues, I was considered to have resigned from the Lodge.”

A Summary of the Legal Defects in the Adjudication of Mr. Iraj Matbu’i’s Case

According to available information, the basis for all of the charges brought against Mr. Matbu’i was the positions he held under the Pahlavi regime as Senator. He was also accused of sending troops to Goharshad Mosque when he [was a military officer and] held a military post, and of causing the death of a number of protestors.

What can be said about Mr. Matbu’i holding office as a Senator is that such an office is not considered a security or military position, and generally speaking, a Senator does not have much authority in suppressing [protests] and/or ordering the use of weapons [against protestors].

Regarding the other charge brought against him, [namely, the killing of people in Goharshad Mosque]: The charge is related to a time where he was a military officer. He explained in his defense that he had played no role in the Goharshad Mosque events and was simply obeying and following his superior’s orders. It seems, in any event, that the court did not conduct a thorough investigation of the relevant events. Furthermore, his conviction of the crime of Moharebeh (“waging war against Allah”) and Efsad fel-Arz (“spreading corruption on Earth”), even if it had been properly proven through convincing evidence, had no legal basis, since pursuant to religious rules relied upon by tribunals at the time, Moharebeh consisted of taking up arms with the intention of creating fear and apprehension in the populace and initiating killings. In other words, Mohareb was a person who took up arms with the intention of fighting Allah or the Islamic government.

The Defendant’s defense of himself was not addressed in the course of the trial, and no convincing proof or evidence was submitted to prove the charges brought against him. Furthermore, the court deprived Mr. Matbu’i of his right to an attorney, whereas, in accordance with the law, the Defendant had the right to legal representation and the court could not deprive him of that right. It seems, generally, that Mr. Matbu’i’s death sentence was solely handed down as revenge, and that it had no basis in Islamic jurisprudence or the law.


After four trial sessions and three days of deliberation, the Central Islamic Revolutionary Tribunal declared Mr. Iraj Matbu’i, as well as Senator Mohsen Khajenuri and Professor Jamshid A’lam, Corruptors on Earth and Enemies of God and the Prophet. They were sentenced to death and shot by a firing squad in Evin prison, September 24, 1979.

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