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Iran Condemns Life Sentence Handed To Former Iranian Prison Official By Court In Sweden

By RFE/RL July 14, 2022

Iran has condemned a decision by a Swedish court to sentence former Iranian prison official Hamid Nouri to life in prison for crimes committed during a 1988 purge of dissidents in Iran.

"Iran is absolutely certain that Nouri's sentence was politically motivated and it has no legal validity," Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani said in a statement.

Nouri, 61, was convicted of a "serious crime against international law" and "murder," the Stockholm district court said in a statement on July 14.

"The sentence is life imprisonment," it said. Nouri can appeal the verdict and sentence.

The court said Nouri 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 Gohardasht prison in Karaj, Iran, "jointly and in collusion with others been involved in the executions."

Amnesty International called the verdict unprecedented and said it sends a message to Iranian authorities.

Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty International's deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, said in a statement that survivors and relatives of thousands of political dissidents who were killed have waited decades for justice.

"With this first-ever ruling against an Iranian official, albeit in a European court, they have finally witnessed an Iranian official held to account for these crimes," she said.

Eltahawy also said the ruling should serve as a wakeup call to the international community to tackle the "crisis of impunity that prevails in Iran" and urged the UN Human Rights Council to set up a mechanism to investigate serious crimes committed in the country, including the thousands of unresolved disappearances.

Nouri was arrested at a Stockholm airport in 2019 and was charged with war crimes for the mass execution and torture of political prisoners at the Gohardasht prison in Karaj in 1988.

The killings targeted members of the Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO), a political-militant organization that advocated the overthrow of Iran's clerical regime.

The group fought alongside the Iraqi Army, which was at war with Iran at the time, the Swedish prosecutors said, adding that Iran's then supreme leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, issued an order for the execution of all prisoners in Iranian prisons who sympathized with and remained loyal to the MKO.

Amnesty International estimated that at least 5,000 people were executed on Khomeini's orders, saying in a 2018 report that "the real number could be higher." Iran has never acknowledged the killings.

Sweden's principle of universal jurisdiction allows its courts to try a person on serious charges such as murder or war crimes regardless of where the alleged offenses took place.

Nouri is the only person so far to be tried in the mass executions. He has denied the charges.

The trial, which began in August 2021, is particularly sensitive in Iran, where current government figures have been accused of having a role in the 1988 deaths, most notably President Ebrahim Raisi.

Raisi, a former chief of Iran's judiciary, has denied involvement in the killings, and Tehran has called Nouri's trial "illegal."

"Sweden should provide the grounds for the release of Nouri as soon as possible," Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani told a news conference on July 13.

Some in the West have expressed concerns about possible reprisals against Western prisoners held by Tehran. Two Swedish-Iranian citizens are on death row in Iran.

With reporting by AFP and Reuters

Source: https://www.rferl.org/a/iran-nouri-sweden- verdict/31942770.html

Copyright (c) 2022. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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