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Life sentence for Iranian executioner a blow to the mullahs

By Struan Stevenson
Life sentence for Iranian executioner a blow to the mullahs
Activists opposing the government of Iran place the images of victims of state-sponsored executions of political prisoners in 1988 in Iran, on the east front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington in 2019. File Photo by Michael Reynolds/EPA-EFE

July 15 (UPI) -- The life sentence imposed by a Swedish court on the Iranian executioner Hamid Noury on Thursday will be a severe blow to the mullahs' theocratic regime. It is the first time an official of the Islamic Republic has been sentenced for his involvement in the massacre of thousands of political prisoners in 1988.

It should also accelerate investigations by the United Nations into the genocidal butchery.

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In their case against Noury, under universal jurisdiction, the Swedish judiciary cited evidence that many political prisoners who supported the main opposition movement, the People's Mojahedin of Iran (PMOI/MEK), were executed between July 30 and Aug. 16, 1988 in the Gohardasht prison in Karaj, Iran, where he was assistant to the deputy prosecutor.

The indictment stated that Noury was "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 Mojahedin and, additionally, of subjecting prisoners to severe suffering, which is deemed torture and inhuman treatment."

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The Swedish prosecutors gathered extensive evidence from witnesses and survivors of the 1988 massacre. Their testaments were horrifying. Witness after witness recounted how Noury helped with the selection of MEK prisoners who were brought before a summary court, where they were asked simply if they still supported the MEK. If, during an arbitrary 2-minute hearing, they answered yes, they were immediately blindfolded and led to the so-called "death corridor" by Noury, where he would order them to stand in line, sometimes for hours, before escorting them to the execution chamber, where they would be made to watch other prisoners being hanged, before being executed themselves.

Nouri often attended and participated in the hanging of prisoners. One witness survived to provide testimony because he had fainted at the sight of his fellow prisoners being hanged.

Noury's sentence will send a resounding message to the mullahs that there can be no impunity for crimes against humanity and genocide. It can only be hoped that the news from the Stockholm court will also be heard in Belgium, where the core principles of European justice were dealt a severe blow last week.

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EU attempts to appease the mullahs' regime reached their apex with the approval in the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Belgian Parliament of a scandalous Belgium-Iran Treaty to enable the exchange of prisoners. If approved by the Belgian parliament, terrorist prisoners of Iranian nationality in Belgium and prisoners of Belgian nationality held hostage in Iran, will be exchanged and allowed to serve their prison sentences in their respective home countries. But in a groveling act of appeasement to Iran, the treaty will also allow amnesty to be granted to the exchanged prisoners.

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The intention of the treaty, without doubt, is the release from prison of the Iranian terrorist diplomat Assadollah Assadi and his three co-conspirators. The EU appeasers clearly hope that this may improve their chances of resurrecting the deeply flawed Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear deal, implemented by U.S. President Barack Obama in 2015 and unilaterally abandoned by President Donald Trump in 2018.

The EU appeasers have tried desperately to resurrect the zombie deal for the past four years, but the mullahs have refused to cooperate unless sanctions are lifted, enabling them to kick-start their crumbling economy. The EU's main appeasers see this as a prime way of acquiring Iranian oil and gas, to fill the vacuum left by the Russian war in Ukraine. It is a classic act of appeasement and a classic betrayal of the core principles of European justice.

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Assadi and his co-conspirators were tried in Belgium in 2021 for attempting to bomb a mass opposition rally at Villepinte near Paris in 2018. According to the verdict in the Antwerp Court, Assadi was a senior agent of the Iran's Ministry of Intelligence and Security. He was using the cover of being a diplomat in the Iranian Embassy in Vienna to enable him to plan a bomb attack that would have caused carnage on European soil, potentially killing hundreds of men, women, and children.

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Evidence from the Belgian prosecutor showed how Assadi had brought the professionally assembled 550 gm TATP bomb on a commercial flight to Vienna from Tehran in his diplomatic bag and passed it, together with an envelope containing €22,000, to two of his co-conspirators. The court was told that Assadi had instructed them how to prime and detonate the device. A third co-conspirator was posted at the Villepinte rally as a lookout. Already this year, the mullahs saw a Belgian appeal court extend the prison terms of Assadi's three co-conspirators.

There is no doubt Assadi's terrorist plot was ordered from the highest echelons of the regime, including supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the president at that time Hassan Rouhani and then-foreign Minister Javad Zarif. The EU should have demanded they be held to account, but predictably, Europe's high representative for foreign affairs and security -- Josep Borrell -- said nothing and did nothing. He is one of the arch appeasers of the regime, as is Charles Michel, former Belgian prime minister, now president of the European Council, who has repeatedly confirmed his support for reopening dialogue with the criminal regime in Iran.

There is no doubt that if these convicted terrorists are allowed to return to Iran, under the terms of the reprehensible Belgium-Iran Treaty, they will be hailed as heroes and probably promoted. Their release from prison in Belgium will make a complete mockery of justice and send the clearest signal to Iran that they can use their embassies and diplomats in Europe to conduct terrorist attacks with impunity. Indeed, they will be encouraged to take further European hostages to hold as bargaining chips for future prisoner exchanges. Belgium will become the mullahs' headquarters for planning terrorist atrocities in Europe.

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The court's verdict in Stockholm will be worthless if Sweden follows the example of the Belgian appeasers and allows Noury to be exchanged for hostages held in Iran on trumped-up charges. If the EU's appeasers allow these killers and perpetrators of evil to escape the judgment of our courts and to be freed, the founding principles of European justice will be forever shattered. The theocratic regime's terrorists must he held to account and must face the justice of our courts.

Indeed, Sweden could double-down on their court's verdict by indicting Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi for genocide and crimes against humanity under universal jurisdiction. That would reinforce the core principles of European justice and send the strongest possible message to the Belgian appeasers that there can be no impunity for terrorists and murderers.

Struan Stevenson is the coordinator of the Campaign for Iran Change. He was a member of the European Parliament representing Scotland (1999-2014), president of the Parliament's Delegation for Relations with Iraq (2009-14) and chairman of the Friends of a Free Iran Intergroup (2004-14). He is an international lecturer on the Middle East and president of the European Iraqi Freedom Association.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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