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LONDON: Senior politicians from across the EU and the UK on Monday urged the UN to open an investigation into the Iranian regime’s 1988 massacres of political prisoners.

Speaking at an event organized by the National Council of Resistance of Iran and attended by Arab News, former heads of state and senior parliamentarians threw their support behind his campaign for accountability for the massacres.

Guy Verhofstadt, Belgium’s prime minister from 1999 to 2008, called the massacres – in which Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi played a key role as prosecutor in Tehran – “genocide”.

Verhofstadt, now a member of the European Parliament, said: “Iran’s impunity crisis came to a head in June when Raisi was named the regime’s president. He was one of the main perpetrators of the mass murder of over 30,000 political prisoners in 1988.

“Instead of being tried for crimes against humanity, he holds the position of president. This shows that impunity is endemic in Iran.

The 1988 killings were heavily targeted against the Mujahideen el-Khalq, an opposition group that played a key role in the 1979 revolution, but was later violently attacked by Iran’s then-Supreme Leader Ruhollah Khomeini, then that he sought to consolidate power.

The MEK is the largest constituent organization of the NCRI, an umbrella movement for Iranian opposition groups.

Many current members of the NCRI lost family and friends in the massacres, which Amnesty International called “crimes against humanity”.

Verhofstadt said, “Architects and perpetrators of genocide must always be brought to justice. Crimes against humanity can never go unpunished. We are shocked by the genocide that took place in Iran in 1988. Men and women died only because they fought for a free and democratic Iran.

John Bercow, who served as Speaker of the UK Parliament for a decade until 2019, was also present at Monday’s event.

Best known for his ‘order’ commands to unruly MPs, he took a somber tone to tell attendees that ‘the 1988 massacre must be investigated’. Raisi “must be prosecuted for crimes against humanity,” Bercow said. “It’s a shame.”

Bercow also voiced his support for the NCRI’s mission more broadly, calling himself an “ally” and “friend” of the group, and reiterating his support for their slogan: “Down with the oppressor, let it be the shah or the Supreme Leader”. He added: “I support your call for a secular and democratic republic.”

Other speakers at Monday’s event included former Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt and former Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini.

Both echoed calls from Bercow and Verhofstadt for an investigation into the 1988 massacres – which they say continue to be covered up to this day – and backed the NCRI under the leadership of Maryam Rajavi, the president-elect. of the group.

Rajavi, chairman of the NCRI since 1993, said the organization seeks to install a government that is “the democratic alternative to the mullahs’ regime”.

The NCRI, she added, “seeks a republic based on the separation of religion and state, gender equality and autonomy for oppressed ethnic groups.”

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