Landmark trial over Iran 1988 mass murder opens in Sweden

An Iranian official accused of involvement in the 1988 execution of thousands of political dissidents faces trial in Sweden, in a case believed to be the first of its kind.

Landmark trial over Iran 1988 mass murder opens in Sweden
People's Mujahedin supporters outside the court on Tuesday. Photo: Stefan Jerrevång/TT

Lawyers for former Iranian prison official Hamid Noury denied his involvement in the 1988 execution of thousands of political dissidents as the trial got under way on Tuesday.

Noury, 60, appeared relaxed and smiling in Stockholm District Court while his defence counsel Daniel Marcus refuted the charges including “murder” and “war crimes” dating from between July 30th and August 16th, 1988, when Noury was assistant to the deputy prosecutor of Gohardasht prison in Karaj, near Tehran.

Earlier Kristina Lindhoff Carleson, for the prosecution, read out the indictment which accused Noury of “intentionally taking the life of a very  large number of prisoners sympathetic to or belonging to the People’s Mujahedin” (MEK).

MEK supporters were among several hundred protesters who gathered outside the court carrying photos of the dead and called for justice for the estimated 5,000 prisoners killed across Iran, allegedly under the orders of supreme leader Ayatollah Khomeini in reprisal for attacks carried out by the MEK at the end of the Iran-Iraq war of 1980-88.

The demonstrators urged Swedish and international justice to condemn Iran’s newly inaugurated president Ebrahim Raisi, also accused by rights groups of involvement in the extra-judicial killings.

Swedish court officials believe Tuesday’s case is the first of its kind against someone accused over the killings.

A verdict in the three-day case is expected in April 2022.

The allegations were brought to the attention of the Swedish authorities by a group of 30 complainants, as well as justice campaigner and former political prisoner Iraj Mesdaghi.

After compiling an evidence dossier of “several thousand pages” on Noury, Mesdaghi set about luring the former prison official to the Nordic country – where he has family members – with the promise of a luxury cruise. Noury was arrested as he stepped onto Swedish soil.

Sweden’s principle of universal jurisdiction means that its courts can try a person on serious charges such as murder or war crimes regardless of where the alleged offences took place.

“This is the first time that one of the persecutors has been held accountable in another country,” Mesdaghi told AFP.

‘Death commission’ accusations

The case is particularly sensitive in Iran, where campaigners accuse current government figures of having a role in the deaths, most notably new president Raisi.

The former head of Iran’s judiciary was accused by Amnesty International in 2018 of being a member of a “death commission” which was behind the secret executions.

Questioned in 2018 and 2020, Raisi denied involvement but paid “tribute” to Ayatollah Khomeini’s “order” to carry out the purge.

Khomeini died in 1989.

In early May, more than 150 personalities, including Nobel Prize winners, former heads of state and former UN officials, called for an international investigation into the executions.

Noury is also charged with having participated in the execution of other prisoners during the same period on the basis of their ideology or belief – they were considered opponents of the “theocratic Iranian state”, according to the prosecution.

Member comments

  1. Just a note on the proper use of English. The use of “refute” in the above article is wrong. “Refute” means to “disprove”. If Noury’s defence had already been able to do so, there would be no trial. The proper word is “rebut”, which means “argue against”, which is what Noury’s defence is doing.

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Swedish court to hear young people’s climate lawsuit against the state

Three hundred young people including activist Greta Thunberg will get to make their case after a Swedish court agreed to hear their lawsuit accusing the state of climate inaction.

Swedish court to hear young people's climate lawsuit against the state

The lawsuit, the first of its kind in the Scandinavian country, was originally filed in November 2022 by the organisation Aurora.

It argued the state “needs to do its fair share of the global work to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels”.

In its lawsuit, the group demanded the state take action to limit climate-heating greenhouse gas emissions and examine just how far it could reduce them within the limits of what is “technically and economically feasible in Sweden”.

The Nacka district court said it had given the state three months to respond to the lawsuit and that, depending on the parties’ pleas and positions, the case could either be taken to trial or handled through written procedure.

“At present, the district court cannot give a forecast as to when the case may be finalised or when it may be necessary to hold hearings in the case,” it said.

Climate activist Thunberg, who was one of the original signatories of the lawsuit, on Monday denounced an “unprecedented betrayal” from those in power after the United Nations’ climate panel warned the world was set to cross the key 1.5-degree global warming limit in about a decade.

She accuses them of living in “denial”.

In recent years, a growing number of organisations and citizens have turned to the courts to criticise what they say is government inaction on the climate.

In December 2019, the Dutch supreme court ordered the government to slash greenhouse gases by at least 25 percent by 2020, in a landmark case brought by an environmental group.

In a similar case in France, more than two million citizens took the French state to court for failing to act against climate change.