War crimes trial could cast harsh light on Iran’s new president
The war crimes trial in Sweden of a former Iranian official could reveal further damaging details about the role played in the mass execution of prisoners 30 years ago by Iran’s president-elect, Ebrahim Raisi, barely a week after his inauguration.
Hamid Noury, 60, was charged last week with “war crimes and murder” over the killings of more than 100 armed opponents and political prisoners during the final year of the 1980-1988 war between Iran and Iraq.
Noury’s trial is due to start on 10 August. He was arrested in Sweden in 2019 while visiting relatives.
Raisi, an ultraconservative who is scheduled to be inaugurated as the Islamic republic’s president on Tuesday, was one of four judges who sat on a secret committee set up in 1988 to interrogate thousands of prisoners.
The president-elect has repeatedly denied any responsibility in the death sentences handed down to approximately 5,000 prisoners from armed opposition and leftist groups who human rights groups including Amnesty International say were executed in Iran that year.
Raisi has said he was acting on orders and that the mass killings were justified by a fatwa, or religious ruling, from Iran’s late supreme leader – and the founding father of its revolution – Ayatollah Khomeini.
Swedish prosecutors said last week that in July and August 1988 Noury was assistant to the deputy prosecutor of Gohardasht prison, about 12 miles (20km) west of Tehran, where hundreds of prisoners linked to the People’s Mujahedin of Iran were executed.
The leftist opposition group Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), which is also known as the People’s Mujahedin Organisation of Iran, fought alongside the Iraqi army during the war with Iran, meaning that most of the executions qualify as war crimes.
“The accused [Noury] is suspected of participating in these mass executions and, as such, of intentionally taking the lives of a large number of prisoners … and, additionally, of subjecting prisoners to severe suffering deemed to be torture and inhuman treatment,” the Swedish charge sheet said.
The Swedish public prosecutor Kristina Lindhoff Carleson said the case was being brought under the principle of universal jurisdiction, which allows national courts to judge defendants in very serious crimes regardless of where they were committed.
“Extensive investigation resulting in this indictment shows that even though these acts were committed beyond Sweden’s territory and more than three decades ago, they can be subject to legal proceedings in Sweden,” Carleson said.
She said Noury’s alleged role in the execution of armed opponents was a violation of the Geneva convention and that his complicity in the execution of leftwing political dissidents after the end of the Iran-Iraq war counted as murder under Sweden’s penal code, since those killings were not directly related to an armed conflict.
Noury’s lawyer told Agence-France Presse he denied all charges against him and police had arrested the wrong man. One plaintiff, Nasrullah Marandi, a former prisoner in Gohardasht, told AFP that he felt “joy” on hearing of the charges.
More than 150 rights campaigners including Nobel laureates, former heads of state or government and former UN officials, called in May for an international investigation into the 1988 killings. Amnesty International and others have long called called for a formal investigation of Raisi’s role.