Iranian official accused in 1988 massacres of political prisoners, including journalists, goes on trial in Stockholm

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) hails the start of the trial in Stockholm of Hamid Noury, an Iranian official who held a senior position at a prison near Tehran when hundreds of prisoners, including journalists, were executed there in 1988. RSF contributed to the Noury investigation and will attend the trial, which is due to open tomorrow (10 August).

According to information gathered and corroborated by RSF, Noury was a member of the so-called “death commission” at Gohardasht prison (now called Rajai Shahr prison), when the executions were carried out.


Created by a “fatwa” (religious decree) issued by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini on 27 July 1988, the “death commissions” were tasked with questioning and deciding the fate of political prisoners who had already been tried and convicted by revolutionary courts. They ended up sending thousands to their death. After interrogations in Tehran that often lasted no more than several minutes, thousands of political prisoners who refused to renounce their beliefs were executed on the orders of these commissions.


Now aged in his 60s, Noury was arrested on arriving in Stockholm on an international flight on 9 November 2019. His arrest was carried out on the basis of the universal jurisdiction recognised by Sweden for “crimes against international law,” in this case, war crimes and murders.


“Hamid Noury’s trial 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,” said Antoine Bernard, RSF’s director of advocacy and strategic litigation. “We hail these two firsts and the remarkable work carried out by the Swedish prosecutors. But we urge them to pursue their efforts. 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.’”


Former members of the Gohardasht prison “death commission” now hold the highest positions in the Iranian regime. Its most influential member, Ebrahim Raisi, was elected as the Islamic Republic’s president in June and took office on 3 August. When Raisi was appointed as head Iran’s justice system in March 2019, RSF denounced his role in that massacre and in the arrests, torture, imprisonment and executions of journalists in the 1980s.


A month before that, in February 2019, RSF revealed that it had obtained a leaked Iranian justice department digital file exposing the scale of the cover-up of decades of judicial persecution. It showed that at least 860 journalists were prosecuted, arrested, imprisoned and in some cases executed in Iran between 1979 and 2009.


RSF will attend this trial after contributing to the investigation by providing several statements, including a statement by Reza Moini, the head of RSF’s Iran/Afghanistan desk. Moini lost four members of his family in the 1988 massacres, including his brother and brother-in-law, who were both journalists.


During this trial, reference could be made to the roles played by other senior officials such as Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi, a senior judicial official, intelligence minister (2005-2007) and justice minister (2013-2017); Hossein Ali Nayeri, the supreme court vice-president; and Morteza Esharghi, who held senior judicial positions and is now a lawyer.


Reference could also be made to Mohammad Moghiseh, now in charge of interrogation and torture at Tehran’s Evin prison. He worked closely with Noury and was involved in the mass executions of political prisoners in 1988. He was president of the 28th chamber of the Tehran revolutionary courts and, as a judge, passed long prison sentences on around 100 professional and citizen-journalists.


Iran is ranked 174th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2021 World Press Freedom Index.

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Updated on 09.08.2021