A Swedish court on Thursday issued the historic conviction of a former Iranian regime official who was sentenced to life in prison for his part in the mass execution and torture of political prisoners in the 1980s.
Hamid Noury, 61, who was arrested at a Stockholm airport in 2019, was charged with war crimes for the mass execution and torture of political prisoners in 1988 at the Gohardasht Prison in Karaj, Iran.
"The accused has in the role of assistant to the deputy prosecutor at the Gohardasht prison in Karaj, Tehran jointly and in collusion with others been involved in the executions, which took place after a fatwa from Iran's Supreme Leader," Stockholm District Court said in a statement.
It said those were deemed as a "serious crime against international law" and murder. "The sentence is life imprisonment," the court said.
Amnesty International has put the number executed on government orders at around 5,000, saying in a 2018 report that "the real number could be higher."
Noury, who denies the charges, is the only person so far to face trial over the slaughter that targeted members of the Iranian People's Mujahideen (Islamic guerrilla fighters), which was fighting in parts of Iran, as well as other political dissidents.
During the wave of executions, Iran's regime murdered Iranian Kurds, left-wingers and those who did not adhere to the radical theological state's ideology.
Noury's lawyer was not immediately available for comment.
Iran's Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment after the verdict, but on Wednesday its spokesman told a news conference that Sweden should release Noury "as soon as possible."
Lawdan Bazargan, a spokeswoman for the Alliance Against Islamic Regime of Iran Apologists, told The Jerusalem Post that "this is the first-ever trial against an individual for core international crimes committed by representatives of the Islamic Regime of Iran.
The trial lasted for nine months, and in its 92 sessions, 58 former political prisoners and family members of the 1988 massacre victims testified against Noury.
This verdict opens the door for the families of the victims of the 1988 massacre to seek justice in the courts of Western countries against other perpetrators of this crime against humanity, such as Mohammad Jafar Mahallati, the so-called "peace professor at Oberlin College."
Noury was convicted for the murder of Bazargan's brother, Bijan, whose execution Mahallati also reportedly covered up.
"In his interview with Masih Alinejad on Voice of America, Mahallati repeated his false claims that the massacre was a secret," Bazargan said. "The findings of the Swedish court and the articles from different US and British newspapers show that the massacre was not a secret and the world knew about it as it was happening."
Mahallati denied to the Post by email that he covered up the massacre of Iranian prisoners when he served as the Islamic Republic's ambassador to the UN in 1988. Amnesty International said in a 2018 report that he committed "crimes against humanity" when he deceived the international community at the UN about the mass executions.
"Since October 2020, our campaign against Mahallati has demanded Oberlin College to fire Mahallati, apologize to the family members of the 1988 Massacre for hiring Mahallati, and review the process by which Mahallati was hired at Oberlin and the process by which he was granted tenure," Bazargan said.
"We must know what due diligence was conducted on Mr. Mahallati before his hiring, whether human rights organizations were ever consulted on the role Iran's former representative to the UN may have played in that country's human rights crisis, and whether such widely available information was ignored."
The Noury trial has focused unwelcome attention on Iran's hardline President Ebrahim Raisi, who is under US sanctions over his past actions that include what Washington and activists say was his involvement as one of four judges who oversaw the 1988 killings.
When asked about the allegations, Raisi told reporters after his election in 2021 that he had defended national security and human rights. The case has soured relations between the two countries with Iran calling the trial "illegal."
Under Swedish law, courts can try Swedish citizens and other nationals for crimes against international law committed abroad.
"For 34 years, the Islamic Republic has sought to cover up whitewash, and keep secret the actions of the Death Commission that sent some 5,000 political prisoners to the gallows to be executed," Toby Dershowitz, a senior vice president for the Washington-based non-partisan think tank Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told the Post.
"Many of the families of those executed were denied the opportunity to bury the bodies of their loved ones, because the victims would not say they were Muslim. 'Your son was an apostate, so we won't give you his body,' was what families of the leftists' victims were told by the executioners," she said.
"Such cruelty and human rights abuse by the Islamic Republic continues today. The 1988 massacres were horrific but regrettably not an anomaly. It merely served as training for some of today's regime leaders."
The prominent Iranian-Canadian lawyer and human rights activist, Kaveh Shahrooz, tweeted "For as long as I live, I'll never forget my mother's scream when she heard of her brother's execution in the #1988Massacre. That scream fuels my activism. I wish she had lived long enough to see a culprit sentenced to life in prison in Sweden today. A modicum of justice."