Sweden Delivers Life Sentence to Iranian Convicted of 1980s War Crimes

The court said 61-year-old Hamid Noury participated 'in the executions of many political prisoners in Iran in the summer of 1988,' including left-wing sympathizers who were deemed to have renounced their Islamic faith

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People react outside Stockholm District Court in Stockholm, Sweden, on July 14, 2022, after the life sentence of the war crime trial against Hamid Noury was spoken.
People react outside Stockholm District Court in Stockholm, Sweden, on July 14, 2022, after the life sentence of the war crime trial against Hamid Noury was spoken.Credit: CHRIS ANDERSON - AFP - Sweden OUT

An Iranian citizen was sentenced to life imprisonment by a Swedish court on Thursday after being convicted of committing grave war crimes and murder during the final phase of the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s.

The Stockholm District Court said that Hamid Noury took part in severe atrocities in July-August 1988 while working as an assistant to the deputy prosecutor at the Gohardasht prison outside the Iranian city of Karaj.

A life sentence in Sweden generally means a minimum of 20 to 25 years in prison, but it could be extended. If he is eventually released, Noury will be expelled from Sweden. Noury can appeal the verdict.

The court said 61-year-old Noury participated “in the executions of many political prisoners in Iran in the summer of 1988" and had “the role of assistant to the deputy prosecutor” at the prison "jointly and in collusion with others been involved in the executions."

The acts were deemed as a serious crime against international law, the court said. A second wave of executions was directed at left-wing sympathizers who were deemed to have renounced their Islamic faith, the court statement said, adding “these acts have been deemed as murder.”

They said Iran’s supreme leader at the time, Ayatollah Khomeini, had issued an execution order for all prisoners in the country who sympathized and remained loyal with the Iranian opposition group Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, known as MEK.

Due to that order, a large number of prisoners were executed in the Gohardasht prison between July 30 and Aug. 16, 1988, the Swedish prosecutors said.

During the trial proceedings that ended May 4, Noury has denied wrongdoing.

Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani released a statement condemning the Swedish court's decision saying, "Iran is absolutely certain that Noury's sentence was politically motivated and it has no legal validity."

Judge Tomas Zander said that Noury had claimed that the evidence against him had (been) fabricated” by the Mujahedin who “wrongly accused him of participating in a fabricated course of events for political gains.”

“However, nothing substantial has emerged which gives the court reason to question the investigation’s reliability and robustness,” Zander said.

“We are of course disappointed,” defense lawyers Thomas Söderqvist and Daniel Marcus told the Swedish news agency TT. They said they would appeal the verdict.

Balkees Jarrah, interim international justice director at Human Rights Watch, called the verdict “a meaningful moment" for survivors and the family of the victims.

“The ruling sends a message to the most senior Iranian officials implicated in these crimes that they can’t remain beyond the reach of justice forever," she said in a statement.

An online platform called MizanPlus that belongs to Iran's judiciary news agency quoted Majid Noury, Noury's son, as saying, “The Swedish court was not judicial at all, but it was political.”

The official Mizan news agency called the sentence “illegal, unfair and without solid evidence” and described Sweden as a “paradise for terrorists.”

The verdict comes at a tense time for the ties between Stockholm and Tehran. A number of Europeans were detained in Iran in recent months, including a Swedish tourist, two French citizens, a Polish scientist and others.

The detentions aroused concerns that Iran hoped to leverage the prisoners as bargaining chips to pressure the United States and European nations to grant the sanctions relief it received under its tattered 2015 nuclear accord with world powers.

In 2015, Iran and world powers agreed to the nuclear deal, which saw Tehran drastically limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. Under former U.S. president Donald Trump the United States has since unilaterally withdrawn from the accord. Talks in Vienna about reviving the deal have been on a “pause” since March.

Hamid Noury was arrested in November 2019 when he arrived in Stockholm and has been in custody since then. Swedish news agency TT said he was lured to Sweden, believing he would go sightseeing, meet women and attend parties.

In line with international practice, Swedish courts may try certain crimes committed abroad if the suspects live or are apprehended in Sweden.

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