Iranian regime leader sentenced to life imprisonment by Swedish court for involvement in massacre of prisoners in 1988
A Swedish court has sentenced a former Iranian official to life in prison for his role in a massacre of prisoners in Tehran nearly 35 years ago, in a case sure to have far-reaching international ramifications.
Hamid Nouri, a 61-year-old former Iranian judicial officer, is accused of taking part in the execution of thousands of political prisoners in the summer of 1988. He was convicted of crimes against international law by the Stockholm District Court on Thursday after a months-long trial.
The case is the latest application of the principle of universal jurisdiction, under which those accused of the most heinous crimes against humanity can be tried in any court.
“This is a historic day for me,” Laleh, the brother of one victim, told Swedish public broadcaster SVT. “I am very happy and grateful. I can’t describe how I feel, I’m crying. That is the magic of justice today.”
The sentencing and sentencing is the first time an Iranian official has been held accountable for the notorious massacres of prisoners ordered by Iran‘s late Supreme Leader and Founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who died the following year.
Many of those killed had already been convicted and were serving their sentences. But Khomeini wanted to empty the prisons and ordered that anyone in prison who refused to renounce their faith and embrace the Islamic regime should be killed. Thousands were killed. Nouri was accused of involvement in murderous acts, including picking up prisoners, transporting them to mass trials and escorting them to execution sites.
“Unlike thousands of political prisoners who were executed in Iran in 1988 for their religious and political beliefs without due process, Hamid was tried in a democratic country through a fair and lengthy trial that gave him every opportunity for a thorough defense prepare.” Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the Center for Human Rights in Iran, wrote in a tweet.
Nouri was arrested on a visit Sweden in 2019 and has repeatedly denied the allegations. Dozens of witnesses, including former prisoners and their families, testified at the trial, which lasted over 96 sessions for nearly a year.
As expected, Tehran was outraged by the case.
President Ebrahim Raisi, an uncompromising ideologue, was among the law enforcement officials involved in the 1988 killings and later said he was proud of his actions. Tehran is also holding untold numbers of dual nationals as de facto hostages on spurious charges, in exchange for demanding the release of Nouri and other figures of the Iranian regime held in the West.
Iran is currently holding Swedish-Iranian doctor Ahmadreza Djalal, who was sentenced to death by an Iranian court on dubious espionage charges after a largely secret trial.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani condemned the ruling, which he described as a scheme hatched by the Mojahedin-e-Khalq (MEK), the Iranian exile organization whose members were the main victims of the 1988 killings.
“We deeply regret that, contrary to the good bilateral relations, Sweden has expended heavily to give in to the MEK’s evil propaganda machine,” he said in comments to the official IRNA, “Sweden has put its judicial system at the service of the [MEK]criminal causes and has virtually acquitted terrorism.”
Mr. Kanani warned that the case would damage bilateral ties.
International human rights activists welcomed the verdict. Amnesty International has long focused on the prison massacres and in 2018 issued a comprehensive report on the killings.
Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty’s Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director, described the verdict as “an unprecedented step towards justice” for the killings and called for more prosecutions of regime officials.
“For more than three decades, survivors and families of thousands of political dissidents killed extrajudicially and forcibly disappeared in the 1988 prison massacre in Iran have been fighting for truth and justice. With this first-ever verdict against an Iranian official, albeit in a European court, they have finally seen an Iranian official held accountable for these crimes.”