Sollentuna, Sweden (AFP):
A former Iranian prison official sentenced for life in prison in Sweden for crimes committed during a 1988 purge of dissidents appeared in court again Wednesday as his appeals trial opened.
The case relates to the killing of at least 5,000 prisoners across Iran, allegedly ordered by supreme leader Ayatollah Khomeini, to avenge attacks carried out by exiled opposition group- the People’s Mujahedin of Iran (MEK)- at the end of the Iran-Iraq war of 1980-88.
Hamid Noury, 61, was convicted of a “serious crime against international law” and “murder” in July 2022 by a Stockholm district court.
It found that Noury was an assistant prosecutor in a prison near Tehran at the time of the events and “retrieved prisoners, brought them to the committee and escorted them to the execution site”.
The lower court trial was the first related to the mass executions in Iran in the 1980s and was particularly sensitive, as rights activists accuse senior Iranian officials now in power — including current President Ebrahim Raisi — of having been members of the committees that handed down the death sentences.
As his appeals trial opened on Wednesday, Noury’s defence lawyer Thomas Bodstrom asked the court to acquit him or reduce his sentence.
Noury was sentenced for his role in the killings targeting the MEK and for participating in a second wave directed at “left-wing sympathisers who were deemed to have renounced their Islamic faith”, the court said in its ruling.
Noury had argued that he was on leave during the period in question, and said he worked in another prison, denouncing the accusations as a plot by the MEK to discredit the country.
Noury was arrested at a Stockholm airport in November 2019 after Iranian dissidents in Sweden filed police complaints against him.
The case has strained relations between Stockholm and Tehran, which has repeatedly called for Noury’s release and dismissed last year’s verdict as “political”.