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SWEDEN AND IRAN

Swedish court to give verdict in Iranian war crimes trial in July

A landmark trial against a former Iranian prison official accused of war crimes during a 1988 purge of dissidents wrapped up in Sweden on Wednesday, with a verdict due in July.

Swedish court to give verdict in Iranian war crimes trial in July
Nina Toobaei, who's brother Siamak (portrait around neck) was executed in Iran, has on three occasions travelled from Toronto to see the trial. Photo: Sophie Tanha/TT

The proceedings marked the first time an Iranian official has gone on trial for the purge.

Hamid Noury, 61, faces charges including crimes against humanity and war crimes for his role in the killing of as many as 5,000 prisoners across Iran, allegedly ordered by supreme leader Ayatollah Khomeini.

The killings were revenge for attacks carried out by the People’s Mujahedin of Iran (MEK), an exiled opposition group, at the end of the Iran-Iraq war of 1980-88.

Last week, prosecutors called for a life sentence for Noury, who has been on trial in Stockholm district court since August 2021.

“It’s ironic, because I was witness to many of my friends being sentenced to death in one-minute trials in Iran. How different it is here”, Ramadan Fathi, a former prisoner who testified against Noury, told AFP.

On Wednesday, the final day of the trial, the judge set the date for the verdict on July 14.

“I hope these hands will be cleared … with the help of God,” Noury told the court, his palms raised to the sky and holding a Koran. “Friends, I love you, I’m not angry at you”, he told those present in the courtroom, his remarks in Farsi translated into Swedish by a court-appointed interpreter.

The defence had contested Sweden’s principle of universal jurisdiction — which allows it to try the case regardless of where the offences took place — and called into question the plaintiffs’ testimony.

“There is a lot of uncertainty about the way in which the name Hamid Noury arose in the testimonies”, Daniel Marcus, one of Noury’s two lawyers, told the court, calling the evidence “insufficient”.

‘Small, small holes’

According to the prosecution and survivors who testified against him, Noury was assistant to the deputy prosecutor of Gohardasht prison near Tehran at the time of the events.

He allegedly handed down death sentences, brought prisoners to the execution chamber and helped prosecutors gather prisoners’ names. Noury has argued that he was on leave during the period in question, and said he worked in another prison, not the Gohardasht one.

Noury was arrested at a Stockholm airport in November 2019 after Iranian dissidents in Sweden filed police complaints against him.

Throughout the nine-month trial, which briefly relocated to Albania to hear some testimony at the end of 2021, MEK supporters protested loudly outside the Stockholm courthouse.

A lawyer for the plaintiffs, Kenneth Lewis, said the evidence in the case was “overwhelming”. The defence “tried to find small, small holes, but in my opinion, they weren’t very comfortable” in their argument.

A lawyer representing the MEK expressed however concern that Noury — who is currently held in custody pending the verdict — would flee Sweden if acquitted, before an appeal could be lodged.

Ramadan Fathi, the former prisoner, said meanwhile he was “very happy to see with my own eyes” someone from the regime facing justice.

“Now that we’ve reached the end of this trial, I hope a day comes very soon when the entire leaders of this regime, perpetrators of this massacre, are brought to justice here or elsewhere.”

The trial has rendered Stockholm’s already chilly relations with Tehran even frostier.

Iran summoned the Swedish ambassador last week, the same day the prosecutor in Stockholm called for a life sentence against Noury. The Swedish foreign ministry has meanwhile advised its nationals against non-essential travel to Iran.

According to the Iranian news agency Isna, Iran plans to execute Swedish-Iranian academic Ahmadreza Djalali, who was sentenced to death in 2017 for spying for Israel, before May 21.

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CRIME

Man in Sweden faces retrial for 26-year-old murder after DNA test

A man freed 25 years ago for murdering a 16-year-old schoolgirl will now face trial again after a forgotten blood sample matched a DNA test.

Man in Sweden faces retrial for 26-year-old murder after DNA test

Sweden’s Supreme Court on Monday gave the go ahead for a retrial in the murder case of 16-year-old Malin Lindström, who was brutally murdered in the village of Husum, north of Örnsköldsvik in 1996. 

“When it’s a question of a retrial to the disadvantage of someone has previously been found innocent, more decisive new material is required,” said Stefan Johansson, one of the five judges who approved the retrial.

“This new evidence doesn’t give any answers as to how and when the girl lost her life. On the other hand, it conveys that there is a very strong support for a connection between the girl and the person who was previously freed.”

A young man was found guilty of murdering her at the district court, but was later freed by the high court, which judged there was insufficient evidence to tie him to the murder. 

In 2020, improved DNA-testing technology has enabled police to create a DNA profile for the killer from a drop of semen found on Lindström’s trousers. 

But at first, it was little use, as all of the samples taken from the man during the 1997 investigation had been thrown away, and Sweden’s High Court refused a police request to take new tests. 

However, police this year discovered an old, forgotten blood test, taken from the man in 1997, leading the prosecutor to request a retrial from the Supreme Court. 

Sweden’s Prosecutor-General Petra Lundh said in a statement she had applied for a retrial as she judged that the new evidence was sufficiently strong that “it was likely that the Supreme Court would have found the man guilty”. 

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