Stockholm massacre trial to start with rally demanding justice from Iranian leadership

Iranian official goes on trial on Tuesday accused of murder and war crimes after travelling to Sweden

Pictures of some of the thousands of Iranian political prisoners who were executed in Iran in 1988. AFP
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A rally in Sweden’s capital will call for senior members of the Iranian leadership to face justice over the deaths of thousands of prisoners as a lowly former prosecutor’s assistant becomes the first person to stand trial over the 1988 massacre.

The trial of Hamid Nouri, 60, who is accused of more than 100 murders perpetrated while he reportedly helped so-called death committees execute thousands of prisoners in the aftermath of the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War, will take place in Stockholm on Tuesday,

Former prisoners, family members of victims and supporters will join a vigil outside the court to call for senior regime officials to also stand trial if they venture outside of Iran. Ex-inmates have identified new Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi as a young and ruthless member of the committees that sent more than 5,000 prisoners to the gallows in a matter of weeks.

Swedish prosecutors will open Tuesday’s trial by reading out the full charges against Mr Nouri, who is said to have been assistant to the deputy prosecutor at Gohardasht prison near Tehran in 1988. He was reportedly involved in processing the cases of condemned and blindfolded men on death row.

Mr Nouri was arrested in 2019 after being tricked into travelling to Sweden to resolve a family dispute without realising that campaigners had passed a dossier of evidence to prosecutors before he arrived at Stockholm’s Arlanda Airport. Mr Nouri denies the allegations against him and has claimed it is a case of mistaken identity.

For several days, prosecutors will lay out the case against Mr Nouri before more than 50 former inmates, witnesses and family members give evidence against him. The trial will also hear from experts about the international legal concept of universal jurisdiction, under which he is being prosecuted. This allows Sweden to prosecute the most serious crimes wherever they have happened in the world.

Lawyers involved in the case say the trial will be a key step to helping other victims of torture and genocide secure justice. The case will be watched keenly by officials in Iran, even though Mr Raisi has immunity as head of state.

But Kenneth Lewis, one of the lawyers representing victims in the court, and Geoffrey Robertson, an Australian human rights who led an inquiry into the killings for the 2011 report, have both said there are circumstances where Mr Raisi could be arrested if he left Iran.

“This case is very important,” said Mr Lewis. “If Nouri is convicted, it points the finger not only at Raisi, but the whole regime.”

The primary targets of the regime were members of the People’s Mujahideen of Iran, who supported the 1979 Revolution but then turned against the new leadership and fought for Saddam Hussein’s Iraq during the war.

Thousands of the group’s reported supporters were held in jails across the country. At the conclusion of the war, prisoners were told to denounce the group, and those who did not were taken to the gallows, witnesses have said.

Many were buried in secret at sites across the country. Families were often kept in the dark about their fate and only realised they had been killed when they were presented with a bag of their personal effects.

A group known as Mothers of Khavaran have kept the memory of the killings alive with annual vigils at the Khavaran Cemetery in south Tehran, where many were buried in mass graves.

Updated: August 09, 2021, 4:09 PM