Skip to comments.Ayatollah Sadeq Khalkhali -- obituary
Posted on 11/30/2003 7:09:40 PM PST by dighton
Ayatollah Sadeq Khalkhali, who died on Wednesday aged 77, was the hanging judge of the Iranian revolution, responsible for sending hundreds, possibly thousands, of people to their deaths; he became notorious in the West after he appeared on television poking the charred corpses of American servicemen killed in an unsuccessful bid to rescue hostages held in the American embassy in Tehran.
Khalkhali, known as the butcher to his compatriots, brought to his job as Chief Justice of the revolutionary courts a relish for summary execution that would have made Judge Jeffries seem like a member of the Howard League for Penal Reform.
Khalkhali acted as prosecutor, judge and jury in his own cases, regarding his rulings as the judgment and conscience of 35 million people. He developed a new judicial concept called obvious guilt - whereby the accused is presumed guilty if his or her crimes were very clear prior to the trial.
Stories of his cruelty were legion. One of his first victims was Amir-Abbas Hoveida, the Shahs prime minister for eight years. After sentence had been passed, pleas for clemency poured in from all over the world and it was said that Khalkhali was told by telephone to stay the execution. Khalkhali replied that he would go and see what was happening. He then went to Hoveida and either shot him himself or instructed a minion to do the deed. Im sorry, he told the person at the other end of the telephone, the sentence has aleady been carried out.
Some of Khalkhalis victims were no more than children. When a 14-year-old boy he had had executed turned out to be innocent, Khalkhali remarked that the child was not on his conscience because he had sent him to heaven. His critics maintained that in his early life Khalkhali had spent time in a mental institution for torturing cats; it was said that strangling cats remained one of his favourite pastimes.
The months after the 1979 Iranian revolution saw the execution of many ministers, army officers and others with connections, however tenuous, with the Shah. Those who fought with God on earth or with his prophets, or who spread corruption on earth must be killed, and hanged when they are killed, to show their bodies to the people, Khalkhali proclaimed.
Many of Khalkhalis victims were Iranian Kurds, on whom Ayatollah Khomeini had declared a holy war in August 1979. At the height of the terror, up to 60 Kurds a day were being sentenced to death by Khalkhalis itinerant kangaroo court.
A small, rotund man with a pointed beard, kindly smile, and a high-pitched giggle, Khalkhali did not look the ogre he clearly was. Like Eichmann, he saw himself as a loyal servant who had only been obeying orders.
When the French newspaper Le Figaro asked him whether he should face trial for crimes against humanity, he replied: No. It is not possible. If I had acted wrongly, Imam Khomeini would have told [me]. I only did what he asked me to do. But he added: If my victims were to come back on earth, I would execute them again, without exceptions.
Khalkhalis macabre sense of humour was brought home to the West in April 1980 when the bodies of American servicemen killed in an unsuccessful attempt to rescue the American embassy hostages in Tehran were discovered in the remote desert region where their helicopter had crashed. Khalkhali, who travelled to the site to supervise the recovery of the bodies, was reported to have commented, Im sorry I didnt find them alive.
Later he presided over a press conference held in the backyard of the embassy, at which the bodies were displayed to the worlds press. Few events of the past 50 years - with the exception of the September 11 bombings - angered the American public so much as the spectacle of Khalkhali gloatingly ordering the bags containing the dismembered limbs of the dead servicemen to be split open so that the blackened remains could be picked over and photographed. The grisly footage from Tehran was repeated over and over again until American audiences had caught every snide gesture and touch of degradation Khalkhali could bring to the scene.
Sadeq Khalkhali was born in 1926 and emerged from obscurity in February 1979 to head the newly established revolutionary courts.
After his dealings with the Kurds, Khalkhali was ordered by Ayatollah Khomeini to crack down on drug dealers, a task he performed with his customary élan. But Khalkhalis bloodthirsty views soon began to embarrass the revolutionary leadership and in December 1980 he was forced to resign because of his failure to account for millions of dollars worth of money seized in raids on drug traffickers and amassed in fines.
Khalkhali was an MP for the Shiite holy city of Qom in central Iran for more than a decade and served as head of the Iranian parliaments foreign policy committee; but his parliamentary candidacy was rejected in 1991 by the Iranian legislative watchdog, the Council of Guardians.
Following the 1997 landslide election victory of Mohammed Khatami, Khalkhali expressed his support for the political reform movement, but his belated conversion to a modicum of democracy was viewed with distrust.
Khalkhali is survived by a wife and son.
I hope his descent into hell is extremely slow so he can writhe in the pain of expectation.
Hmmmm. Yeah. I can imagine him with a cat in his mitts...
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