Iranian man arrested in Sweden over war crimes linked to 1988 prison massacres

Amnesty called the disappearance of thousands of political dissidents in Iran 30 years ago a 'blood-soaked’ secret

TOPSHOT - Some 800 portraits of victims have been displayed by representatives in France of the People's Mujahedin of Iran on the Esplanade des Invalides in Paris on October 29, 2019 to commemorate the executions of thousands of Iranian political prisoners in 1988. / AFP / Eric Feferberg

Authorities in Sweden have arrested an Iranian man suspected of committing war crimes during 1988 prison executions in Iran.

The man, 58, was taken into custody in the Swedish capital Stockholm after travelling to the city’s Arlanda airport. He was reportedly visiting family.

The Iranian national, who has not been identified, is suspected of playing a role in one of the bloodiest chapters in Iran’s recent history.

A senior official at a jail in Karaj, a western suburb of Tehran, he is believed to have been involved in the execution of prisoners.

Amnesty International said that between July and September of that year, Iranian authorities forced thousands of imprisoned political dissidents to disappear or executed them without trial in secret. Most were disposed of in unmarked graves.

The killings, ordered by then Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, have been treated by Tehran as state secrets.

Relatives were never told how and why their loved ones were killed and where they might be buried.

Amnesty has called the murders of the thousands of political prisoners Iran’s “blood-soaked” secret.

Ebrahim Raisi, who was named as head of the Iranian judiciary by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei this year, was one of the architects of the crackdown as deputy prosecutor in Tehran.

Various groups have called on the UN to set up an investigation to bring those responsible to account. But before the arrest of this man in Sweden, no official has been brought to justice.

On Wednesday, Stockholm’s District Court ordered that the Iranian be held pending a prosecutor's decision on charges. The decision is due by December 11 at the latest.

Prosecutor Karolina Wieslander said the crimes were carried out during the war between Iran and neighbouring Iraq, which ended in August 1988.

This month, Sweden charged an Iraqi man, 46, with spying for Iran after he reportedly gathered information on refugees in Sweden, Belgium and the Netherlands.

Prosecutor Hans-Jorgen Hanstrom said the man, who was also not identified, had collected personal information about Iranian Arabs, known as Ahvazis, while posing a journalist for an online Arabic publication.

The dual Iraqi and Swedish citizen is suspected of photographing and filming members of the group during demonstrations and at an Ahvazi conference.

He was active for four years that ended in February, during which time he infiltrated online Iranian opposition groups and gathered login information to anti-Iran forums.