Iranian official's guilty verdict over massacre of 5,000 prisoners upheld by Swedish court

Hamid Noury's appeal against life sentence also rejected

A courtroom sketch shows former Iranian prison official Hamid Noury, left, and his lawyer. AFP
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The conviction and life sentence handed to an Iranian official for his part in the mass execution of prisoners has been upheld by a court.

Hamid Noury, 62, was found guilty last year of murder and a serious crime against international law over the killing of as many as 5,000 prisoners in Iran in 1988.

The appeal court's decision was greeted with cheers by several hundred protesters who had gathered outside the court, waving flags and chanting slogans calling for the end of the Iranian regime.

The Svea Court of Appeal in Stockholm said in a statement it "affirmed the judgment" of Noury, who in July last year was sentenced to life in prison "for grave breaches of international humanitarian law and murder".

"Our assessment is that the prosecutor's case is robust and overall compelling and that the district court was correct to find the prosecutors' charges largely substantiated," judge Robert Green said.

In an interview with Iran's Fars news agency, the convicted man's son, Majeed Noury, said the trial was unfair. "We will go to higher Swedish courts, as well as international courts, and present our evidence," he added.

The killings were allegedly ordered by Iranian supreme leader at the time Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, to avenge attacks carried out by exiled opposition group the People's Mujahideen of Iran (MEK) at the end of the Iran-Iraq War of 1980-88.

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

Sweden tried Noury under its principle of universal jurisdiction, which allows it to stage a trial regardless of where the alleged offences took place.

A court found Noury had been an assistant prosecutor in a prison near Tehran at the time of the events and had "retrieved prisoners, brought them to the committee and escorted them to the execution site".

Nouri claimed he was on leave during the period in question and said he worked in another prison, not the Gohardasht jail where the killings took place.

The nine-month trial was relocated briefly to Albania to hear some evidence at the end of 2021. Throughout the proceedings, MEK supporters have protested outside the Stockholm courthouse.

The case has caused a deep rift between Sweden and Iran, which said the initial verdict was politically motivated.

The verdict could have repercussions on the fate of Swedish prisoners in Iran, including EU diplomat Johan Floderus who has been held for more than 600 days.

Mr Floderus, a Swede working for the EU's diplomatic service, was arrested at Tehran airport as he was preparing to return from a trip to Iran with friends.

His trial opened in Iran this month, with Tehran accusing the 33 year old of conspiring with Iran's arch-enemy Israel and of corruption on Earth, one of the country's most serious offences which carries a maximum penalty of death.

Ahmadreza Djalali, an Iranian-Swedish academic, is also imprisoned and under threat of execution after he was arrested in Iran in 2016 and sentenced to death on espionage charges.

Iran has previously used detained foreigners as bargaining chips to secure the release of its own citizens or frozen funds held abroad, including with the US and Belgium.

Updated: December 19, 2023, 5:15 PM