Iranian ex-prison official Hamid Nouri has been convicted of war crimes and murder and sentenced to life imprisonment by a Swedish court.
Stockholm District Court surmised on Thursday that the former prosecutor’s assistant had indeed been instrumental in “atrocities” at Evin and Gohardasht Prisons in 1988. That summer, thousands of political detainees across Iran were slaughtered on the orders of Ayatollah Khomeini in the aftermath of the Iran-Iraq war.
As such, the court’s statement read, the 61-year-old was convicted of “a serious crime against international law".
In Sweden a life sentence tends to mean 20 to 25 years, but it can be extended if deemed appropriate. If he ever is released, Nouri would be expelled from Sweden.
Nouri was working in Gohardasht at the time of the first “wave” of systematic executions from July 30 to August 16, which targeted members of the People’s Mojahedin Organization [MEK], and in the second wave that September, when many leftists and other dissidents were killed.
Witnesses who survived the massacre testified that it had been Nouri’s job to lead prisoners condemned a ta stroke by the four-member “death panel” – which in Tehran included the current president, Ebrahim Raisi – to the hall where they would be hanged, or taken outside to be shot by firing squad.
During the proceedings Nouri denied wrongdoing, claiming first that it had been a case of mistaken identity, and secondly that the MEK had fabricated the charges for political gain. The Iranian Foreign Ministry repeated the claim in a furious statement on Thursday.
Judge Tomas Zander said on Thursday: “Nohting substantial has emerged which gives the court reason to question the investigation’s reliability and robustness.
The outcome of a case that took almost four years to conclude – Nouri was first arrested while visiting Sweden in November 2019 – has been hailed by human rights advocates, observers from Iran, survivors and the families of victims of the 1988 killings.
Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI), wrote on Twitter that the verdict was “historic”: “For the first time in 43 years, since the inception of the Islamic Republic, an Iranian official has been held accountable for mass atrocities.
“Unlike thousands of political prisoners, who were executed without due process based on their religious and political beliefs in 1988, Hamid was tried in a democratic country through a fair and lengthy judicial process that granted him every avenue to prepare a thorough defense.”