Swedish prosecutors charge Iranian man over ‘war crimes and murder’

An Iranian man faces trial in Sweden over his alleged connection to the execution of more than 100 political prisoners in Iran.

File photo of a gavel.
The man denies the charges against him. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Swedish prosecutors said they were charging 60-year-old Hamid Noury, who was arrested in Sweden in 2019, for “war crimes and murder” over the mass killings of prisoners in Karaj, Iran, towards the end of the 1980-1988 war between Iran and Iraq.

Noury was arrested upon his arrival at the airport in Stockholm, with Swedish media reporting at the time that he was visiting relatives.

Human rights groups have been campaigning for years for justice for what they consider to be the extrajudicial execution of thousands of Iranians, mostly young people, across the country in the late 1980s.

Sweden’s Prosecution Authority said in a statement that the prisoners had been linked to the “People’s Mujahedin of Iran,” a political organisation seeking to overthrow the clerical leadership whose armed branch had launched several attacks against Iran.

In the summer of 1988, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini “issued an order to execute all prisoners held in Iranian prisons who sympathised with and were loyal in their convictions to the Mujahedin,” according to Swedish prosecutors.

Noury held the position of “assistant to the deputy prosecutor at the Gohardasht prison,” on the outskirts of Karaj, west of Tehran, the statement said.

“The accused is suspected of participating, together with other perpetrators, in these mass executions and, as such, intentionally taking the lives of a large number of prisoners, who sympathised with the Mujahedin and, additionally, of subjecting prisoners to severe suffering which is deemed torture and inhuman treatment,” it said.

In the charge sheet, seen by AFP, Prosecutor Kristina Lindhoff Carleson said that these actions constituted a violation of the Geneva Conventions.

Noury’s lawyer told AFP that he denies the charges against him.

Facing him in the trial is a group of more than 30 plaintiffs, made up of former prisoners who witnessed the alleged atrocities and relatives of victims.

‘Fallen comrades’

Following the mass executions, and after a ceasefire between Iran and Iraq, the Iranian leadership also decided that other political prisoners “who sympathised with various left wing groups and were regarded as apostates by the Iranian leadership, should be executed.”

Prosecutors said Noury, in his role at the prison, was also complicit in the killings that followed.

“These acts are classified as murder according to the Swedish Penal Code since they are not considered to be related to an armed conflict,” the prosecutor statement said.

One of the plaintiffs, Nasrullah Marandi, a prisoner between 1987 and 1989 in the Gohardasht prison, told AFP that he felt “joy” but was also reminded of “the blood of my fallen comrades” when Noury was charged.

“I am ready to go all the way and take on the risks, and I will testify at the trial,” he said.

The trial is set to begin on August 10th in Stockholm and scheduled to end in mid-April 2022.

In May, a group of more than 150 rights campaigners, including Nobel laureates, former heads of state or government and former UN officials, called for an international investigation into the 1988 killings.

The case remains sensitive in Iran as activists accuse officials now in government of being involved.

For instance, Amnesty International has accused president-elect Ebrahim Raisi of having played a key role as a prosecutor on the “death commission” that sent thousands of prisoners to their deaths in 1988, described as a crime against humanity by the rights group.

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Helsingborg ‘has become major European cocaine hub’

A port in southern Sweden has become a European hub for cocaine being smuggled from South America to the continent, Swedish customs warned Friday following several large drug seizures this year.

Helsingborg 'has become major European cocaine hub'

Swedish customs agents have seized 867 kilograms (1,911 pounds) of cocaine at the Helsingborg port since the beginning of this year, the customs agency said, compared with the 822 kilograms seized in the whole of Sweden last year.

Including seizures abroad destined for Helsingborg, a total of 1.3 tonnes of cocaine had been seized since September 2022.

Magnus Pettersson, a senior prosecutor with the Prosecution Authority’s unit for international and organised crime, told a press conference the seizures “were completely without precedent in Swedish criminal history.”

“Sweden, and the port of Helsingborg, has become the point of transit for South American cocaine on its way out onto the illegal European market,” Pettersson said.

The narcotics are being smuggled in containers often transporting fruits and vegetables on freight ships from South America, in many cases Ecuador, he said.

Hidden compartments are often built into the containers. Helsingborg had emerged as a hub for drug trafficking because the frequency of harbour controls had been too low and security around the port had been lacking.

Coupled together, this meant there was a “near free flow of cocaine” both into and out of the port.

In order to stop the smuggling, every refrigerated container from South America passing through the port would need to be controlled, the customs agency said. The smuggling was believed to involve both Swedish and international criminal networks.

In recent months, Swedish Customs had on multiple occasions discovered tracks from smugglers breaking into the port area to empty the containers.

Equipment such as “bags, bolt cutters and blow torches” had been found, the agency said in a statement.

While additional resources had been committed, the customs agency lamented that few arrests had been made, noting that the only arrest had been of two Albanian citizens after they had collected 47 kilograms of cocaine in December.

Sweden has struggled to rein in a surge of shootings and bombings in recent years, as gangs settle scores fuelled by the narcotics trade.