Iranian ex-official's trial resumes in Albania

·2-min read
Mohamad Zand, (C) makes the victory sign as he leaves Durres courthouse on November 10, 2021 (AFP/Gent SHKULLAKU)

The trial of a former Iranian prison official, accused of handing out death sentences as part of a 1988 purge of dissidents, moved to Albania on Wednesday, with a witness recalling "shocking scenes".

Hamid Noury has been on trial at the district court in the Swedish capital Stockholm since August on a slew of charges including murder, crimes against humanity and war crimes, dating from July 30 to August 16, 1988.

At the time he was allegedly assistant to the deputy prosecutor of Gohardasht prison in Karaj, near Tehran.

The entire Stockholm district court relocated to the Albanian port of Durres, at the prosecution's request, to hear testimony from seven witnesses unable to travel to Sweden.

The seven, to be questioned until November 18, are members of the exiled opposition People's Mujahedin of Iran (MEK) group and are living in a camp near Durres.

Noury, 60, himself remained in Stockholm.

He has been held in custody since November 2019, when he arrived in Sweden where he has family members.

The first plaintiff and witness before the court in Durres was Mohammad Zand, arrested in 1981 for supporting the MEK. He spent 11 years in prisons including in Gohardasht at the time of the 1988 massacre.

- 'Very strong testimony' -

There he "has seen the defendant Hamid Noury many times and he has seen Hamid Noury actually participating in taking people to be executed," his lawyer Kenneth Lewis told reporters in front of the tribunal.

"His testimony is very, very valuable and was very, very strong."

Zand himself said that the "shocking scenes" that would be heard at the Durres tribunal were "only a small part of the clerical regime's crimes".

"What happened in Iranian prisons in the 1980s, and especially in 1988, is undoubtedly a genocide and a crime against humanity."

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, incoming president Ebrahim Raisi and judiciary chief Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei are the "highest officials involved in these crimes and must be brought to justice", he told the media.

Human rights groups have estimated that 5,000 prisoners were killed across Iran, allegedly under the orders of supreme leader Ayatollah Khomeini in reprisal for attacks carried out by the MEK at the end of the Iran-Iraq war of 1980-88.

While not accused of directly carrying out any of the killings, the prosecution has alleged that Noury's participation included handing down death sentences, bringing prisoners to the execution chamber and helping prosecutors gather prisoners' names.

Noury has refuted the charges against him. He is due to testify in Stockholm as of November 23.

Sweden's principle of universal jurisdiction means that its courts can try a person on serious charges such as murder or war crimes regardless of where the alleged offences took place.

A verdict in the case is expected in April 2022.

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