Iranian convicted of war crimes freed in prisoner swap in Sweden

An Iranian convicted in Sweden of war crimes has been freed as part of a prisoner exchange between the two countries.

Hamid Noury, who was serving a life sentence, returns to Tehran, while Johan Floderus, a Swedish diplomat, and Saeed Azizi with dual nationality are back in Stockholm.

Noury ​​was arrested in Sweden in 2019 and found guilty of participating in the mass execution of political prisoners in Iran more than three decades ago.

Floderus was detained in Iran two years ago on charges of espionage, while Azizi was arrested last November and sentenced to five years in prison.

Relations between Sweden and Iran have deteriorated since Noury’s conviction.

When announcing the exchange, Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said Iran had turned Floderus and Azizi into “pawns in a cynical negotiating game, aiming to secure the release of Iranian national Hamid Noury ​​from jail in Sweden.”

And he added: “He is convicted of serious crimes committed in Iran in the 1980s.”

Kazem Gharibabadi, Secretary of the High Council of Human Rights of Iran, said in a post on X, formerly Twitter, on Saturday that Noury ​​had been illegally detained in Sweden but was now free and returning to Iran.

Noury ​​was accused of committing war crimes and murder in 1988 when, according to Swedish prosecutors, he was an assistant deputy prosecutor at Gohardasht prison in Karaj.

He was the first person to be prosecuted for participating in the execution of thousands of prisoners, something the Iranian establishment has never formally acknowledged.

In 1988, Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), a left-wing opposition group backed by Iraq, attacked Iran during the Iran-Iraq War.

Iran’s then-supreme leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, issued an order to execute all prisoners who were loyal or sympathetic to the group.

Human rights groups estimate that between July and September 1988, between 2,800 and 5,000 women and men were executed at locations including Gohardasht prison.

Noury, 63, was arrested after arriving at Stockholm airport on a flight from Iran. He denied the charges against him, but was found guilty of “serious violations of international humanitarian law and murder.”

He was tried under the principle of universal jurisdiction that allows countries to prosecute people for serious crimes against international law committed elsewhere.

This includes war crimes, genocide, torture and crimes against humanity.

Floderus, 33, faced the death penalty after his arrest in Iran in 2022 on charges of espionage while on vacation.

Azizi, an Iranian-Swedish citizen in his 60s, was found guilty of “assembly and collusion against national security.”

Oman helped negotiate the prisoner swap and played a key role in the release of another European citizen last week. French banker Louis Arnaud was released after two years detained in Iran.

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