AP report from Sunday, November 15, 1953, following Mossadegh's challenge earlier in the week over the competency of the military tribunal court.
Court Martial Rules Itself
by DON SCHWIND
Legal To Try Mossadegh
TEHRAN, Iran, Nov. 15 (AP)— The court martial trying ex-premier Mohammed Mossadegh for treason ruled itself competent today to pass judgment on his case.
THE RULING CAME after a week of preliminary arguments highlighted by noisy denunciations of the court by the 73-year-old ailing ex-dictator. It cleared the way for reading the indictment charging Mossadegh with attempting to unseat the shah, disobeying the monarch's decree removing Mossadegh from the premiership,
and dissolving the majlis (parliament) illegally.
The five judges constituting the military tribunal debated Mossadegh's court challenge 4 hours and 45 minutes before announcing their decision. General Nazrollah Moghbell, court chairman, read the ruling, which said that “according to clause 45 of the constitution, the appointment and dismissal of ministers is a right given to the shah”. There was no indication of the court’s vote on Mossadegh’s challenge or any sign of whose opposition, if any, delayed the vote. One report yesterday said that three of the court members believed the tribunal competent to try the ousted premier, while the other two agreed with Mossadegh.
The court also ruled itself competent to try Mossadegh's co-defendant. General Taghi Riahi, former chief of staff to the ousted premier.
After the decision was announced, the chief prosecutor, Brigadier Hossein Azemodeh, began reading the indictment, under which a death penalty is possible if the ex-premier is convicted.
THE COURT SWEPT ASIDE Mossadegh's contentions that he must have a jury trial, that the army court is illegal because he himself had decreed its abolition, and that Azemodeh was not qualified to serve as prosecutor because he formerly was one of his subordinates.
The decision said in part:
“During the qajar dynasty (the one preceding that of the present monarch, Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlevi) there were precedents for the shah's dismissing prime ministers. Ahmad Shah dismissed a prime minister by sending him a cable. During Reza Shah's (the present shah's father) regime, there also were precedents. During the regime of the present shah, he dismissed (Mohammed) Saed, Ali Mansoor and Ali Razmara [Razmara was never dismissed, he was assassinated while Premier].
“The shah by his order appointed Ali Razmara as premier. Razmara got 91 votes in the majlis. Later, when he signed the Iran-Soviet agreement, he was congratulated by the majlis minority, led by Mossadegh himself.
“Therefore, there is no doubt that the shah's decree issued to Mossadegh (dismissing him) was legal and an attribute of the constitutional dynasty of Iran. Therefore, from 1 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 16, Mossadegh was not premier, and in a statement issued by Mossadegh the following morning he signed himself 'Dr. Mossadegh', without mentioning prime minister.”
This proves he surrendered to the shah's decree.”
The ruling added that “since the defendant is an ordinary person, the presence of a jury is not necessary.”
ON MOSSADEGH'S contention that he had dissolved the court while still premier, the decision said that “under the plenary powers given Mossadegh, he had no right to make any changes in army laws.”
Taking up Mossadegh's challenge of Azemodeh's qualifications as prosecutor, the court declared “the prosecutor did work under him (Mossadegh) as an officer in charge of the engineering department of the army, but Mossadegh is on trial for the three days (Aug. 16-19) during which he (Mossadegh) had no rank. Therefore, the accused was not the Superior of the prosecutor during that period.”
After the shah removed Mossadegh from office, the ex-dictator's supporters, including the outlawed Communists, staged a coup climaxed by bloody street riots Aug. 17 which forced the Shah and Queen Soraya to flee the country. Two days later supporters of the shah staged a counter-coup which routed the Mossadegh forces and enabled the monarch and his queen to return in triumph.
Moghbell asked the chief prosecutor, Brigadier Hossein Azemodeh, yesterday to “make clear for the court” a point made by the defense that under the army judicial code, a specific order from the shah is necessary for prosecution of officers above colonel. Since Mossadegh, as premier, was second in command of the army, the defense said such an order from the shah was required for court-martialing the ex-premier but that no such order was among the court's papers.
Azemodeh told the court Mossadegh was a civilian and hence could be tried by the army court without a specific order from the shah.
The court's questioning on this point had led some observers to speculate the military tribunal was laying the ground work to declare itself incompetent to try the ex-dictator. Consequently, the delay by the court in announcing its decision had an element of suspense, and today's ruling was a surprise for some.