A former Iranian prosecutor accused of involvement in the 1988 execution of thousands of political dissidents has gone on trial in Sweden on August 10 in a landmark case likely to stoke tensions in the Islamic republic.
Hamid Nouri, 60, appeared in Stockholm District Court on August 10 charged with "intentionally taking the life of a very large number of prisoners” in Iran in 1988, when around 5,000 political prisoners were executed on government orders.
It is the first time anyone is standing trial over the purge.
Prosecutors said that Nouri worked in July-August 1988 as an assistant to the deputy prosecutor in the Gohardasht prison outside the Iranian city of Karaj and allegedly took part in the executions.
Nouri "denies any accusation of involvement in the alleged executions of 1988," according to his lawyer, Thomas Soderqvist.
Dozens of people demonstrated against the Iranian leadership outside the court as the trial got under way.
Swedish public broadcaster SVT said Nouri was arrested in November 2019 when he arrived in Sweden and has been held in custody since.
The 1988 killings targeted members of Iranian People’s Mujahedin, a political-militant organization that advocated overthrowing the leadership of the Islamic Republic of Iran and installing its own government.
The group was cooperating with the Iraqi Army, which was at war with Iran at the time, the Swedish prosecutors said, adding that Iran’s then-supreme leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, issued an order for the execution of all prisoners in Iranian prisons who sympathized and remained loyal with the Mujahedin organization.
Due to that order, a large number of prisoners were executed in the Gohardasht prison between July 30 and August 16, 1988, the prosecutors said.
More than 150 personalities, including Nobel Prize winners, former heads of state, and former UN officials, called in May for an international investigation into the 1988 executions.
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.
The trial is expected to last until April 2022. The court will hear dozens of witnesses over three days of sittings.
The case is particularly sensitive in Iran, where current government figures have been accused of having a role in the 1988 deaths, most notably new President Ebrahim Raisi.
Antoine Bernard of Reporters Without Borders (RSF) hailed the start of the trial in Stockholm, saying it “marks both the first time the mullah regime’s crimes are being tried and the first time that the terrible massacres of 1988 are being tried.”
“Many journalists were among the victims of the 1988 massacres because of their journalistic activity. Noury must be held to account for them as well, until justice finally catches up with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and the other members of the 'death commissions'" that were behind the secret executions, Bernard said in a statement.
Raisi, a former chief of Iran's judiciary, has denied involvement in the killings.