Why Iran's president Ebrahim Raisi will be terrified by evidence at ex-government official Hamid Noury's war crimes trial in Sweden – Struan Stevenson

The scales of justice are beginning to tip against the theocratic Iranian regime.

Supporters of the People's Mojahedin of Iran protest outside a Stockholm court on the first day of the trial of an Iranian man for war crimes over the execution of political prisoners in 1988 in Karaj, Iran (Picture: Stefan Jerrevang/TT NEWS AGENCY/AFP via Getty Images)
Supporters of the People's Mojahedin of Iran protest outside a Stockholm court on the first day of the trial of an Iranian man for war crimes over the execution of political prisoners in 1988 in Karaj, Iran (Picture: Stefan Jerrevang/TT NEWS AGENCY/AFP via Getty Images)

Following a rigged election, their new president, Ebrahim Raisi, a notorious executioner, was formally inaugurated on August 5. There are widespread demands that he be indicted for crimes against humanity and held to account for his involvement in the massacre of over 30,000 political prisoners in Iran in 1988.

Now, one of Raisi’s functionaries, Hamid Noury, has been arrested in Sweden and is facing prosecution for war crimes and for his involvement in the same massacre of Iranian political prisoners in 1988. The mullahs are quaking in their shoes at the evidence Noury may provide.

His indictment has its origins in the armed conflict that took place between Iran and Iraq from 1981-1988. The People’s Mojahedin of Iran (PMOI)/Mojahedin e-Khalq (MEK), who had been outlawed and hunted down by the mullahs following the 1979 revolution, fought back against the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), the clerical regime’s Gestapo.

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Iran’s Supreme Leader at that time, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, issued a fatwa against the PMOI/MEK, instructing that all political prisoners who claimed allegiance to the organisation must be executed. The mass hangings began in the summer of 1988.

The Swedish authorities have cited evidence that a large number of PMOI/MEK prisoners were executed between 30 July and 16 August 1988 in the Gohardasht prison in Karaj, Iran, where Noury was assistant to the deputy prosecutor.

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The indictment claims that Noury was “suspected of participating, together with other perpetrators, in these mass executions and, as such, intentionally taking the lives of a large number of prisoners, who sympathised with the Mojahedin and, additionally, of subjecting prisoners to severe suffering which is deemed torture and inhuman treatment".

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The Swedish prosecutors have gathered extensive evidence from witnesses and survivors of the 1988 massacre and they opened court proceedings against Noury on Tuesday.

The 60-year-old, who denies the charges, listened through a translator as prosecutors in Stockholm’s district court read out a long list of charges including murder and war crimes, dating from July 30 to August 16, 1988.

The evidence for the prosecution makes for grim reading. It is alleged that Noury helped with the selection of PMOI/MEK prisoners who were brought before a summary court where they were asked simply if they still supported the PMOI/MEK. If, during this two-minute hearing, they answered ‘yes’, it is said they were immediately led to the so-called ‘death corridor’ by Noury, where he would order them to stand in line, sometimes for hours, before escorting them to the execution chamber, where they would be made to watch other prisoners being hanged, before being executed themselves. He is believed to have often attended and participated in the hanging of prisoners.

Noury was arrested at Stockholm’s Arlanda Airport in November 2019. His trial will reveal the true brutality of the Iranian regime. Many of the plaintiffs in the case have given evidence by video link from Ashraf 3, the headquarters of more than 2,500 PMOI/MEK supporters in Albania and from other countries around the world.

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The plaintiffs are mostly freed prisoners who witnessed the crimes committed in the death corridor in Gohardasht Prison during the 1988 massacre. One witness has described how he recalled Noury bringing a box of pastries to the death corridor on one of the days that multiple executions were taking place.

He took the pastries first to the room where Ebrahim Raisi, who has just become Iran’s new president, was supervising the arbitrary death sentences for political prisoners. According to the witness, Raisi and his henchmen gorged themselves on pastries while sending innocent men and women to be hanged.

The trial in Sweden is likely to be a direct embarrassment to Iran’s executioner president, whose hands-on role in the killing of thousands of political prisoners, including teenagers and even pregnant women, will be exposed to the world’s press.

It is astonishing that the EU sent Enrique Mora, deputy secretary-general of the European External Action Service (EEAS), to Tehran to attend Raisi’s inauguration as president on August 5.

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The ceremony took place less than a week after a British and a Romanian national were killed in an Iranian drone strike on an Israel-operated oil tanker in the Arabian sea.

In February this year, Assadollah Assadi, an accredited Iranian diplomat, was sentenced to 20 years jail in a Belgian court, after he was caught red-handed in a terrorist bomb plot.

Assadi flew to Vienna from Tehran on a commercial airliner, with a fully primed bomb in his diplomatic pouch. As the EU’s second most senior diplomat, Enrique Mora must surely have felt deep embarrassment sitting next to terror chiefs from Hezbollah and Hamas and other criminals, at the inauguration of ‘the butcher of Tehran’.

With protesters chanting “Death to the Dictator” and “Mullahs must get lost” in towns and cities across Iran, the time has come for appeasement to end and for the EU to demand the indictment and prosecution of Ebrahim Raisi and the other mass murderers who have ruled Iran for the past four decades.

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Turning a blind eye to the brutal suppression and escalating death toll in Iran simply provides impunity to this criminal regime, encouraging them to slaughter more people.

Sending a senior EU representative to attend the inauguration of such a person, elected after a rigged election, is shameful. Such a cringing act of appeasement to a regime that continues to finance proxy wars across the Middle East, sponsors terrorism internationally and has become a pariah state is simply unacceptable.

Struan Stevenson is the coordinator of the Campaign for Iran Change. He is an international lecturer on the Middle East and president of the European Iraqi Freedom Association

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