By Johan Ahlander and Simon Johnson
STOCKHOLM (Reuters) -A Swedish appeals court on Tuesday upheld a guilty verdict and life sentence given to a former Iranian official convicted last year for his part in a mass execution of political prisoners in Iran in 1988.
In 2022, the Stockholm District Court ruling found Hamid Noury guilty of murder and serious crimes against international law, drawing strong criticism from Iran, which said the verdict was politically motivated.
The Appeal Court’s decision was greeted with cheers by several hundred protesters who had gathered outside the court, waving flags and chanting slogans calling for the end of the Iranian regime.
“It’s a great day, it’s a beautiful day and justice has prevailed,” Abdolreza Shafie, a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, an opposition umbrella group, told Reuters.
Noury is the only person so far to face trial over the killings at the Gohardasht prison in Karaj, Iran, in 1988 that targeted members of the Iranian People’s Mujahideen, which was fighting in parts of Iran, as well as other political dissidents.
Amnesty International has put the number executed on government orders at around 5,000, saying in a 2018 report that “the real number could be higher”. Iran has never acknowledged the killings.
Under Swedish law, courts can try Swedish citizens and other nationals for crimes against international law committed abroad.
Noury, who denied the charges, was arrested at a Stockholm airport in 2019.
The case has caused a deep rift between Sweden and Iran.
Earlier this month, an Iranian court opened the trial of a Swedish European Union employee arrested in 2022 while on holiday in the country.
Johan Floderus is charged with spying for Israel and “corruption on earth,” a crime that carries the death penalty.
Sweden has requested his immediate release, calling the detention arbitrary.
Rights groups and Western governments have accused the Islamic Republic of trying to extract political concessions from other countries through arrests on security charges that may have been trumped up.
Tehran says such arrests are based on its criminal code and it denies holding people for political reasons.
(Reporting by Anna Ringstrom, Simon Johnson and Johan Ahlander, editing by Terje Solsvik, Louise Rasmussen and Tomasz Janowski)