A court in Stockholm, Sweden, held the first hearing for Hamid Noury on Tuesday. Noury, who was a senior prison guard in Iran’s notorious Evin and Gohardasht prisons in the 1980s, was involved in numerous crimes against political dissidents, especially members and supporters of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK). In 1988, as one of the authorities in Gohardasht prison, he carried out mass executions of political prisoners as part of a countrywide purge of dissidents in Iran’s prisons.
Noury was arrested while on a trip to Sweden in 2019. His trial started earlier this year, with the court hearing harrowing testimonies from his victims and their families. Noury’s trial is providing a window into the 1988 massacre and the numerous crimes the regime has committed.
While after his arrest, Noury had claimed that he had been mistaken for someone else, in his Tuesday hearing, he acknowledged his identity and revealed his true colors.
Praise for regime criminals
In his introductory remarks, Noury praised the criminal leaders of the regime, including supreme leader Ruhollah Khomeini. He described Ebrahim Raisi, known among Iranians as the “butcher of 1988,” as “the popular president of the people of Iran.” Raisi was one of the key figures in the 1988 massacre and sat on the Death Commission, a group of officials who signed the death warrant of thousands of prisoners.
Noury also praised Qassem Soleimani, the now-dead mastermind of the regime’s terrorist operations, and called him a martyr. “When [Soleimani] was insulted,” Noury said, referring to one of the witnesses calling Soleimani a criminal, “I felt that the world broke on my head.”
Noury also described Assadollah Lajevardi, a notorious torturer who has personally killed many prisoners in the 1980s, as a “beloved prosecutor.”
The flipside of his admiration for known criminals was his animosity toward the MEK. Noury repeated the propaganda that the regime has been spreading against the MEK through its official outlets and its lobbies abroad.
“There’s an organization that is so-called People’s Mojahedin, but no one in Iran knows them by this name. All Iranians call them Monafeghin,” Noury said, using the term that only the regime uses for the MEK. “If I mistakenly call them Mojahedin in my remarks, I apologize to the Iranian people.”
A criminal history
While Noury’s goal was to downplay his role in the 1988 massacre and deny his presence in Gohardasht prison at the time, he inevitably admitted to his involvement in the regime’s crimes in the 1980s.
According to his own account, he volunteered to go to Kurdistan to suppress the Kurdish people in 1979. He was later enlisted in the Bassij, a paramilitary force that is tasked with the suppression of dissidents.
He was later sent to Evin prison as a prison guard in the Amuzeshgah section. He was later transferred to the accounting section and later appointed as a member of the prison’s courthouse. He tried to downplay his role as just taking care of prisoners’ needs.
According to Noury, he retired from prison work in 1991 and “set up a gravel and sand company.” “Every night, I came back home with a suitcase full of money,” he said.
Denial of the 1988 massacre
Ironically, Noury, who took joy in tormenting prisoners in Evin and Gohardasht, complained about his own conditions in Sweden’s prisons. “I suffered from terrible conditions,” he said.
Noury also went on to deny that the 1988 massacre ever happened and called it a “made up and undocumented story” and a “ridiculous play.”
It is worth noting that not even the regime’s own officials make such claims. Raisi has openly expressed pride in his role in executing political prisoners in 1988. Mostafa Pourmohammadi, another member of the Death Commission and former Justice Minister, has also acknowledged his role in the 1988 massacre. There are undeniable documents about the regime burying executed prisoners in mass graves. Thousands of witness accounts confirm the killings. And there’s an audiotape of Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, then-successor to Khomeini, who berates the Death Commission for the mass execution of political prisoners.
Noury took a step further and claimed that Gohardasht prison doesn’t even exist. “There is no prison called Gohardasht. This is a historic lie that has been made up in these thirty-and-some years,” he said. “If you say Gohardasht in Iran, people are going to laugh at you.”
And he claimed that he was on leave at the time of the 1988 massacre. This is while there are numerous accounts by prisoners that Noury himself took the prisoners to the execution hall and he personally participated in the hanging of political prisoners.
Noury did, however, admit that his boss was Nasserian, whose real name is Mohammad Moghiseh, a notorious judge who has been blacklisted for his human rights abuses.
At this point, Noury’s controversial statements are only proving that he can’t defend his case. But the truth is that Noury is but one of the many regime officials who must be held to account for their crimes. The real criminals, in this case, regime supreme leader Ali Khamenei, Raisi, and other senior officials whose role has been well documented by the MEK and international rights groups.