The Ayatollah Hussein Ali Montazeri appealed to Iran’s leader, the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, at least twice last year to stop thousands of executions, according to letters made public in Paris on Wednesday.
The letters showed that Montazeri, whose resignation as Khomeini’s apparent successor was announced Tuesday, feared that an implacable wave of official killings was turning people against the Islamic regime.
Iran’s official media issued extracts Tuesday from a recent exchange of letters in which Montazeri, 66, told Khomeini he was unfit for the burden of supreme leadership and wanted to return to the life of a theology teacher. Khomeini, who is in his late 80s, accepted.
Montazeri’s attempts to stop what he referred to as “thousands of executions in a few days” were made in two letters to Khomeini dated July 4 and 31, 1988, and made public by the office of former Iranian President Abolhassan Bani-Sadr, who lives in Paris.
In the July 31 letter, Montazeri told Khomeini that zealots acting in his name were going too far with the execution of imprisoned political opponents. Even if they had recanted, he said, prisoners were still being put to death.
The killings were being seen by the people as “acts of hatred and vengeance” and were alienating the families of the prisoners, most of whom were believers and revolutionaries.