TEHRAN First December (IPS) Mr. Akbar Ganji, Iran’s most prominent and daring investigative journalist and researcher revealed Thursday the name of the "Master Key" to the murder of Iranian intellectual and political dissidents by naming publicly former Intelligence Minister Hojjatoleslam Ali Fallahian, thus ending months of guessing and expectations from both the authorities and the public.

Appearing before an Islamic Revolution court in ordinary civilian dress, a smiling and relaxed Ganji also denounced by name some senior clerics, including Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi Mesbah-Yazdi for having encouraged or issued fatwas, or religious orders for the assassinations.

And he shocked the audience when he named Hojjatoleslam Qolamhossein Mohseni Ezhe’i, the powerful Judge appointed by Ayatollah Ali Khameneh'i, the leader of the Islamic Republic as the Head of the controversial Clergymen’s Special Tribunal and Tehran’s Deputy Chief Justice as the man who ordered the killing of Mr. Piruz Davani, a leftist activist who "disappeared" in august 1998.

Political analysts immediately said by naming publicly the names of some of the high-ranking clerical personalities suspected to have ordered the assassinations, Mr. Ganji has taken an "insurance" on his life.

"From now on, whatever happen to him, even if he sneeze, the conservatives would be blamed for", commented Mr. Ali Keshtgar, a noted activist based in Paris.

One of the seventeen Iranian reformists who participated at a conference held in Berlin from 7 to 9 April to debate the future of Iran in the aftermath of the reformists landslide victory in the Legislative elections of February, Mr. Ganji not only denied all charges levelled against him by the court, but accused both the Information (Intelligence) and Foreign Affairs ministries as well as the Judiciary of having "betrayed" those who took part at the Berlin meeting.

The Iranian conservatives-controlled Judiciary says the Conference was organised by the "Zionists" who controls Germany’s Green Party to which is affiliated the Heinrisch Boel Cultural Institute that organised the Conference.

Plus charges of acting against national security by participating at the Berlin conference, waging propaganda against the Islamic Republic system and endangering the national security of the State that are considered against all participants at the Berlin conference, Mr. Ganji is also accused of insulting the Judiciary, implicating Iran in terrorism, insulting both Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and the Ayatollah Khameneh’i and gathering classified information.

Defending himself, Ganji said he had participated in the meeting unaware of any link between the Heinrisch Boell Institute and Zionists and turning the table, said if the Intelligence Ministry, the Judiciary, the authorities knew that the organisers were Zionist and let us go to Berlin attend the meeting, they have then encouraged us to commit an offence".

Continuing on the same vein, he asked why then the authorities had received Mr. Joschka Fischer, the German Foreign Minister who is also the leader of the Green Party? "How comes that the officials can talk to Zionists and not ordinary citizen? How come that out intellectuals and scholars and sportsmen can exchange with the Americans with who we have no relations but not with German counterparts"? he asked, adding that the "sole aim of protesting to the Berlin Conference is to ruin the reform process".

"The information given to the supreme leader on the Berlin Conference is insufficient and all the participants at the meeting have defended the system", Ganji told the court.

Mr. Ganji denied having insulted the Founder of the Islamic Republic in an interview with a German magazine, explaining that the fault lies with the translator and he had warned the review about this.

On the charge of insulting Ayatollah Khameneh’i, he said that opposing the Leader's views could not imply "affront". "Legally, insult means pronouncing or writing indecent words against someone and in this case the prosecutor general has failed to distinguish between insult and criticism", he observed.

He acknowledged that as far as the bundle closure of the press, the imprisonment of journalists and the treatment of political prisoners are concerned, he did not share the views of the leader. "And this is my right", he argued.

"There are more than three months that prisoners like (Masha’allah) Shams (olva’ezin), (Emaddedin) Baqi, (Ahmad) Zeydabadi, (Hasan) Yusefi-Eshkevari are not allowed to use telephone to talk to their families", he said, reminding that himself has spent more than 80 days in solitary confinment.

Ganji, held in prison since April, had already written a letter to President Mohammad Khatami complaining of "abominable conditions" of the prison. He also charged prison guards had tortured him, provoking a denial from the prison authorities.

Turning to the "Chain Murders" case, Mr Ganji reiterated that he had linked some high-ranking clerics, the conservatives, Hojjatoleslam Fallahian and his senior Deputy Sa’id Emami, alias Eslami to the murders, reminding that Ayatollah Mesbah-Yazdi has ruled that apostates and those who questions Islam’s principles could be killed without court authorisation.

"The killings were carried out with the blessings of several senior clerics and Ali Fallahian as the Master Key", he charged to the astonishment of the audience.

Mr. Dariush Foruhar, the leader of the secularist Iranian People’s Party and his wife Parvaneh Eskandari were found stabbed to death at their residence on 21 November 1998. Writers Mohammad Mokhtari and Mohammad Ja’far Puyandeh and Majid Sharif, a researcher, followed them.

Ayatollah Khameneh'i blamed "foreign hands" in the assassinations, but a three-men investigation team appointed by President Khatami concluded that the murders were the work of high-ranking agents of the Intelligence Ministry led by Mr. Emami, who was found dead in prison after his arrest.

Pressed by both the deeply shocked public opinion and the independent press, the Intelligence Ministry ended early January 1999 by admitting that in fact its agents had committed the assassinations.

But as the Judiciary, obeying orders from the leader, was trying hard to drag the case in confusion and limit the impact of the murders, several journalists, namely Mr. Emadeddin Baqi in Iran and Dr. Alireza Nurizadeh in London, led by Mr. Ganji continued to search for the "Grey Eminency" and the "Master Key", symbols used by Mr. Ganji in one of his best-seller books named "The Dungeon of Phantoms".

Investigations published in the reformist press revealed that the same "rogue gang" had carried out tens of other assassinations during the presidency of Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, or the "Grey Eminency".

The former Intelligence Minister who is now acting as the leader’s special adviser on security matters is under an international warrant issued by German authorities for his role in the assassination of Iranian dissidents in Germany.

Mr Ganji's revelations are certain to deepen the tension between the conservatives and the reformers who would be pressed by the public to push for public trial of Mr. Fallahian and his acolytes.

He rejected the charge that he had collected classified information and said most of the news about the serial murders he referred to were published in a secret bulletin printed by the Guidance Ministry for the information of high-ranking authorities of the regime as well as articles taken away from the publications published by Iranians abroad and in the daily Kayhan", the mouthpiece of the pro conservative intelligence community.

"Ayatollah Javadi Amoli and Ayatollah Mesbah-Yazdi say a democratic system is against God and against religion. One wonder describing the regime democratic is a crime or anti-democratic?" Mr. Ganji asked, adding "not able to tolerate losing the power and the wealth, the conservatives resort to fascistic methods".

Blaming the "chain murders" on the Haqqani circle, Mr. Ganji reminded that all the killers of dissident intellectuals and politicians were either students of this theological centre of under its influence, referring to one of the most radical theological school in Qom.

Mr. Mesbah-Yazdi, a hard line cleric who is highly praised and esteemed by Ayatollah Khameneh’i is the senior theoretician of the Haghani circle.

Joining families of the victims and their lawyers, Mr. Ganji also called for the creation of an independent investigation committee to follow up not only the serial murders but also the cases of all dissidents assassinated under the presidency of Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani.

The Judiciary announced last week that three men described as the "main culprits" in the serial murders would be tried on 23 December.

But informed sources said by naming the three suspects as those who carried out the assassinations, the Judiciary was to close the case "once for all" in order to stop it reaching the real culprits "sitting around the leader".

"If you like, if you may be happy, condemn me not to seven or eight years but to fifty, for, anyway, I would be proud to stay in prison in defence of freedom, of human rights, of democracy and freedom of expression and of thought", Ganji told Judge Hasan ahmadi-Moqaddasi

Meanwhile, the authorities announced Thursday the arrest of several people charged with distributing an 80-page report which implicates a number of high-ranking authorities involved in the serial murders.

The centrist "Entekhab" (Choice) daily cited Intelligence Minister Hojjatoleslam Ali Yunesi as saying that several people, accused of distributing the undercover "night letter", had been identified and arrested recently.

He gave no further details on the number of people involved or their identities, but said the arrests had not been made in Tehran. ENDS GANJI NAMES FALLAHIAN 11200