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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Attacker ‘severely disturbed’ during stabbing at Swedish political festival

Theodor Engström, the 33-year-old man who stabbed psychiatrist Ing-Marie Wieselgren to death at the Almedalen political festival in July, was seriously psychiatrically disturbed at the time of his attack, forensic psychiatrists have ruled.

Attacker 'severely disturbed' during stabbing at Swedish political festival

According to the Hela Gotland newspaper the Swedish National Board of Forensic Medicine has ruled that the man was so disturbed at the time of his attack he had lost the ability to understand the consequences of his actions, and has as a result recommended that he be given psychiatric treatment rather than a prison term.

The agency said that Engström had still been disturbed at the time he was given psychiatric assessment, and warned that there was a risk that Engström would commit further criminal acts. 

“This is a question which has relevance at a future stage,” said prosecutor Henrik Olin. “It means he cannot be sentenced to jail, but will instead receive psychiatric care. But it is not going to change how the investigation is carried out.” 

READ ALSO: What do we know about the Almedalen knife attack?

Engström stabbed Wieselgren, who worked as psychiatric coordinator for the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions, as she was on the way to take part on a discussion at the Almedalen political festival. She died in hospital later that day. 

Engström has admitted to carrying out the attack, telling police that he intended to make a protest against the state of psychiatric healthcare in Sweden.