A Swedish legal case against an Iranian man for “war crimes and murder” over the execution of more than 100 political prisoners in 1988 could cause problems for Iran’s incoming president Ebrahim Raisi.
However, Raisi will likely benefit from diplomatic immunity if he travels abroad as president, and despite sanctions, the United States would be obliged to grant him a visa if he were to attend September’s General Assembly at the United Nations in New York, the New York Times reported.
Iran’s Mission to the UN said Raisi’s travel plans for the General Assembly remain unclear amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the report. Raisi is scheduled to speak at the event either in person or virtually.
The diplomatic mission added that it had no comment about the trial in Sweden.
The case against 60-year-old Hamid Noury, who was arrested in Sweden in 2019, concerns his alleged part in the mass killings of prisoners towards the end of the 1980-1988 war between Iran and Iraq.
Human rights groups have been campaigning for years for justice for what they consider to be the extrajudicial execution of thousands of Iranians, mostly young people, across the country in the late 1980s.
In May, a group of more than 150 rights campaigners, including Nobel laureates, former heads of state or government, and former UN officials, called for an international investigation into the 1988 killings.
Amnesty International has accused president-elect Raisi of having played a key role as a prosecutor on the “death commission” that sent thousands of prisoners to their deaths in 1988, described as a crime against humanity by the rights group.
A UN official tasked with investigating human rights in Iran backed last month an independent probe into the role of Raisi, in the mass state-ordered executions.
“I think it is time and it’s very important now that Mr. Raisi is the president[-elect] that we start investigating what happened in 1988 and the role of individuals,” Javaid Rehman, the third special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, told Reuters. “Otherwise we will have very serious concerns about this president and the role, the reported role, he has played historically in those executions.”
Noury was arrested upon his arrival at the airport in Stockholm, with Swedish media reporting at the time that he was visiting relatives.
Sweden’s Prosecution Authority said in a statement that the prisoners had been linked to the “People’s Mujahedin of Iran,” or MEK, a political organization seeking to overthrow the clerical leadership whose armed branch had launched several attacks against Iran.
In the summer of 1988, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini “issued an order to execute all prisoners held in Iranian prisons who sympathized with and were loyal in their convictions to the Mujahedin,” according to Swedish prosecutors.
Noury held the position of “assistant to the deputy prosecutor at the Gohardasht prison,” on the outskirts of Karaj, west of Tehran, the statement said.
“The accused is suspected of participating, together with other perpetrators, in these mass executions and, as such, intentionally taking the lives of a large number of prisoners, who sympathized with the Mujahedin and, additionally, of subjecting prisoners to severe suffering which is deemed torture and inhuman treatment,” it said.
His trial is set to start on August 10 and is scheduled to end in mid-April 2022. Amnesty International has noted previously that no Iranian official has faced charges over the mass 1988 executions.
Meanwhile, the incoming president Raisi, tied to the mass killings, is on a blacklist of Iranian officials sanctioned by Washington, due to his complicity in the “brutal crackdown” on protests and “extrajudicial executions of thousands of political prisoners in 1988,” accusations Raisi rejected.
Raisi was elected last month with nearly 62% of a vote that saw record-low turnout after his main opponents were disqualified. Raisi, appointed by Khamenei as judiciary chief in 2019, is to replace relative moderate President Hassan Rouhani — whose landmark achievement was a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers — on August 3.