In Sweden, justice confirms the life sentence of former Iranian prosecutor Hamid Nouri

Swedish justice on Tuesday confirmed, on appeal, the life sentence of a former Iranian prosecutor, Hamid Nouri, for his role in the mass executions of prisoners ordered by Tehran in 1988

In Sweden, justice confirms the life sentence of former Iranian prosecutor Hamid Nouri

Swedish justice on Tuesday confirmed, on appeal, the life sentence of a former Iranian prosecutor, Hamid Nouri, for his role in the mass executions of prisoners ordered by Tehran in 1988. The Svea appeal court “confirms the first instance judgment (…) in significant proportions” which had sentenced Hamid Nouri to life imprisonment “for serious violations of international humanitarian law and for murder”, according to a press release.

The case “is strong and generally compelling and the district court was correct in finding that the prosecutors’ accusations were largely true,” appeals court Judge Robert Green was quoted as saying in the statement. This decision could have repercussions on the fate of Swedish prisoners in Iran, in particular the diplomat working for the European Union Johan Floderus, detained for more than six hundred days.

Hamid Nouri, 62, was arrested in 2019 at Stockholm airport, where Iranian opponents claim to have lured him to allow his arrest, made possible by the extraterritoriality of the most serious crimes under Swedish law. He was convicted in July 2022 for aggravated crimes against international law and murder, a first in the world for these facts.

Mr. Nouri worked as an assistant prosecutor in a prison near Tehran in 1988, but claimed to have been on leave at the time of the events. At first instance, he was found guilty of having, under an alias "and in collusion with others", "been involved in the executions" ordered by "a fatwa of the Supreme Leader of Iran", Ayatollah Khomeini.

Bloody purge

Although the accused occupied a subordinate role, this is the first time that an Iranian official has been tried and convicted for this bloody purge targeting mainly members of the armed opposition movement of the People's Mujahideen Organization (MEK). , hated by Tehran. The accused's defense had requested a reduction of his sentence during the appeal trial.

The issue is also particularly sensitive because the current Iranian president, Ebrahim Raïssi, is accused by human rights organizations of having participated in the “death committees” carrying out the executions. NGOs estimate that at least 5,000 prisoners were executed in the summer of 1988 during sentences handed down in succession by these “committees”. MEK puts the death toll at 30,000.

Started in August 2021, the trial at first instance has strained relations between Sweden and Iran and raised fears of reprisals targeting Western prisoners held by the Islamic regime.

In April 2022, Iran arrested Johan Floderus, a 33-year-old EU diplomat, who was completing a trip to Iran with friends. His trial in Iran began on December 9, and Mr. Floderus is on trial there for “corruption on earth,” one of the most serious charges in Iran, and carries the death penalty.

Deal with Iran?

Another Iranian-Swede, academic Ahmadreza Djalali, arrested in Iran in 2016 and sentenced to death on similar charges, remains under threat of execution. Swedish media are speculating about the possibility of an exchange between Sweden and Iran.

The appeal court's decision regarding Mr. Nouri is unlikely to be final, as it is likely to be studied by the Swedish Supreme Court, notes Mark Klamberg, professor of international law at Stockholm University. “The government could pardon Nouri (…), but I think that will not happen, it is politically impossible,” he told Agence France-Presse.

More likely, Iran and Sweden could agree that Mr. Nouri serve the remainder of his sentence in Iran, which in practice would amount to his release upon his return, according to him. Such an agreement could then encourage what several Western states denounce as “hostage diplomacy” on the part of Iran, adds the expert. “An important aspect for the Swedish government will also be the reaction of the victims” of the Iranian purges to a possible exchange, adds Mr. Klamberg.