A court confirms life sentence for Iran ex-prison official
France24 (19.12.2023) – Swedish appeals court on Tuesday confirmed the conviction of a former Iranian prison official handed a life sentence for crimes committed during a 1988 purge of dissidents.
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.
The Svea Court of Appeal said in a statement it “affirmed the judgment” of 62-year-old Hamid Noury, who in July 2022 was given a life sentence “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.
Noury was arrested at a Stockholm airport in November 2019 after Iranian dissidents in Sweden filed police complaints against him.
The case relates to the killing of at least 5,000 prisoners across Iran, allegedly ordered by supreme leader Ayatollah Khomeini, to avenge attacks carried out by exiled opposition group the People’s Mujahedin of Iran (MEK) at the end of the Iran-Iraq war of 1980-88.
Sweden has tried Noury under its principle of universal jurisdiction, which allows it to try a case regardless of where the offences took place.
The lower district court had found that Noury had been an assistant to a 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”.
Noury has denied the charges and insisted the allegations against him were “fabricated.”
His defence lawyers had asked the appeals court to acquit him or reduce his sentence.
Speaking to Iran’s Fars news agency, Noury’s son Majid condemned the decision, saying it showed the court was using “political arguments” and “Swedes do not respect legal procedure”.
Swedes in Iran
The lower court trial was the first related to the mass executions in Iran in the 1980s.
It was particularly sensitive, as rights activists accuse senior Iranian officials now in power — including current President Ebrahim Raisi — of having been members of the committees that handed down the death sentences.
The case also strained relations between Sweden and Iran.
As Noury’s lower court trial was under way in Stockholm in April 2022, Iran arrested Johan Floderus, a Swede working for the EU’s diplomatic service, as he was returning from a trip to Iran with friends.
Floderus’s trial opened in Iran earlier this month, with Tehran accusing the 33-year-old of conspiring with Iran’s arch-enemy Israel and of “Corruption on Earth” — one of Iran’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 foreign nationals as bargaining chips to secure the release of its citizens.
Swedish media have speculated about the possibility of a prisoner swap between Sweden and Iran.
Sweden’s Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom has declined to comment on the possibility of a prisoner swap.
Swedish news agency TT reported that hundreds of protesters had gathered outside the courthouse on Tuesday, breaking into cheers as the verdict was delivered.
Some protesters said they hoped Noury would not be freed via a prisoner swap.
“If you give in to dictatorships and give up on your principles, they will never end,” Soheila Dashti told the news agency.
Exiled opposition group National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) welcomed the ruling while reiterating a call to bring charges against high-ranking officials.
“The overwhelming evidence and testimony presented at the trial… necessitates that the Swedish government and judiciary pursue legal action against Ebrahim Raisi,” the NCRI said in a statement.