Europe

Sweden charges Iranian over 1988 'war crimes and murder'

Published : July 28, 2021 12:38 IST

Ayatollah Khomeini (center) — here sat with the then secretary general of the People's Mujahedeen (right) — ordered the killing of Mujahedeen political prisoners towards the end of the Iran-Iraq war. Photo: irancima

The 60-year-old is accused of participating in the killing of political prisoners over 30 years ago at the behest of Ayatollah Khomeini.

An Iranian man was charged with the murder of over 100 political prisoners going back 33 years, Swedish prosecutors said on July 27.

Since many of the killings occurred in 1988 during the Iran-Iraq war, they are being considered as war crimes. The suspect is alleged to have taken part in mass executions and subjected "prisoners to severe suffering which is deemed torture and inhuman treatment," the indictment said.

The 60-year-old man — who has denied the charges — was arrested in late 2019 after landing in Stockholm's Arlanda Airport. He is scheduled to appear in court on August 10.

Why did the mass executions take place?

Many of the victims were political dissidents belonging to the People's Mujahedeen that had sided with Iraq during the war in an attempt to overthrow the religious regime. Towards the end of the conflict they were involved in several attacks against the Islamic Republic.

"The supreme leader of Iran, Ayatollah Khomeini, shortly afterwards issued an order to execute all prisoners held in Iranian prisons who sympathized with and were loyal in their convictions to the Mujahedeen," the prosecutors said.

"Following this order, a large number of such prisoners were executed between July 30 and August 16, 1988, in the Gohardasht prison in Karaj, Iran," they added.

Relief more than 30 years later

Human rights groups have campaigned for years to bring those culpable for the mass killings to justice. Activists say that some are now working as officials in government in Iran.

"This extensive investigation resulting in this indictment shows that even though these acts were committed beyond Sweden's territory and for more than three decades ago, they can be subject to legal proceedings in Sweden," Public Prosecutor Kristina Lindhoff Carleson said.

"I am really relieved," key witness and plaintiff in the trial Iraj Mesdaghi told Swedish public broadcaster SVT. "This is such an unbelievably important event for us: all the mums, dads, families and others connected to the people who fell victim to the Iranian regime. This crime has already been proven, I am really grateful that something is finally happening," Mesdaghi, who was a political prisoner in Iran in 1988, added.

ab/rt (AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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