Iran dissident leader, wife stabbed to death

FOCUS-Iran dissident leader, wife stabbed to death 04:55 p.m Nov 22, 1998 Eastern

TEHRAN, Nov 22 (Reuters) - A veteran Iranian opposition leader and his wife, who were outspoken critics of the Islamic government, were found stabbed to death at their home, the Iranian news agency IRNA reported on Sunday. It quoted police as saying Dariush Forouhar, former labour minister and head of the small nationalist Iran Nation Party, and his wife Parvaneh were found dead at their home in Tehran.

'The Interior Ministry said in a statement police discovered the bodies on Sunday afternoon, but that the two had been killed several hours earlier, IRNA reported. Police had begun a major investigation, the statement added. Forouhar, 70, and his wife, 58, often criticised alleged violations of human and political rights in interviews with Persian-language programmes beamed to Iran by Western radios.

The Iran Nation Party, an illegal but tolerated secular group, publishes a newsletter which often carries exclusive reports of alleged rights violations.

The group had called for a boycott of last month's nationwide elections to a powerful clerical assembly, saying democratic elections were impossible in Iran today.

Forouhar was one of the few old-time opposition leaders who had not gone into exile and had continued to speak out in Iran. Hardline Islamic militants had on several occasions over the past few years attacked meetings by Forouhar's party.

Forouhar, who spent several years in jail during the rule of the late Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, briefly joined Islamic forces and served as labour minister in the first government after the 1979 revolution which toppled the shah. But he went into opposition after fundamentalist followers of the late revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini consolidated their hold on power.

Forouhar was a close associate of the late Prime Minister Mehdi Bazargan, whose liberal Islamist cabinet served for nine months after the revolution. In the 1950s, he was an ally of the late nationalist leader Mohammad Mossadeq.

Several prominent exiled Iranian opposition figures have been assassinated since 1979. Iran has denied involvement, blaming the slayings on infighting among dissidents.

Killings of opposition leaders inside the country have been rare.