News

November 15, 2019

Sweden arrests Iranian suspected of role in 1988 massacre

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) welcomes Sweden’s arrest of a former Iranian prosecutor who is suspected of participating in the summary execution of hundreds of detainees, including journalists, in an Iranian prison three decades ago.

Arrested on arrival in Stockholm on a flight from Tehran on 9 November, Hamid Noury, 58, is well known to human rights defenders because he held a senior position at Gohardasht prison when the summary executions ­– regarded as “crimes against humanity” by international human rights bodies and NGOs – were carried out in the summer of 1988.

 

Located 50 km northwest of Tehran, Gohardasht prison is nowadays usually referred to as Rajai Shahr prison.

 

Last February, RSF reported that it had obtained a leaked Iranian justice department digital file revealing that at least 860 journalists and citizen-journalists were prosecuted, arrested, imprisoned and in some cases executed in Iran between 1979 and 2009.

 

Around 4,000 political prisoners who had previously been given prison sentences were executed on Ayatollah Khomeini’s express orders from July to September 1988. According to evidence gathered by Iranian human rights defenders, Nouri was a prosecutor at Gohardasht prison at the time and played an “active role” in the executions.”

 

Agnes Callamard, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, has described Nouri’s arrest as an “important first step towards justice for the 1988 massacre.”

Nobel peace Laureate Shirin Ebadi, who heads the committee created to oversee how the leaked Iranian data file is used, known as the Committee for the Observation and Use of Iranian Justice Data, said his arrest was a “wave of hope for justice” and should serve as an example for others perpetrators of crimes in Iran.”

 

A Stockholm court ordered Nouri’s detention pending a decision by the prosecutor’s office, expected by 11 December, on whether to prosecute.

 

By revealing the existence of  an official file with the names of dozens of Iranian journalists who were executed, RSF has shown that senior officials were directly implicated in these crimes,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “One of them is now held by the Swedish judicial authorities. It is essential that this country, which has one of the highest rankings in the World Press Freedom Index, should use this unique opportunity to combat impunity for crimes against journalists.”

 

Noury’s arrest was due in large part to the efforts of Iraj Mesdaghi, a former political prisoner, author of several books on the executions of political prisoners and an expert on the 1988 massacre. Like Ebadi, he is a member of the Committee for the Observation and Use of Iranian Justice Data.

 

Iran is ranked 179th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.