On Wednesday, November 10, the western Albanian province of Durres hosted the 35th session of the trial of Hamid Noury, an Iranian prison official, for torturing inmates and playing a role in the extrajudicial executions of 1988. Noury had already been arrested by Swedish authorities on November 9, 2019.
During the past two years, Hamid Noury denied his involvement in human rights violations, particularly the massacre of 30,000 political prisoners, mostly members, and supporters of the opposition Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK/PMOI).
“Noury is now standing trial in a court where many of his victims are giving harrowing testimonies of how he and other regime officials brutally tortured prisoners,” the MEK official website wrote, describing the court as a significant step toward holding criminals to account for crimes against humanity.
Earlier, on May 3, 2021, more than 150 former United Nations officials and legal experts called on the UN to establish a “commission of inquiry into Iran’s 1988 extrajudicial executions of thousands of political prisoners.”
“The UN experts stated that the failure of UN bodies to act over the 1988 massacre has “had a devastating impact on the survivors and families” and “emboldened” the Iranian authorities to “conceal the fate of the victims and to maintain a strategy of deflection and denial,” the Justice for the Victims of the 1988 Massacre in Iran (JVMI) quoted the joint letter as saying.
Back on September 3, 2020, seven UN Special Rapporteurs, including Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran Javaid Rehman, wrote to the Iranian authorities stating that the 1988 extrajudicial executions and forced disappearances of thousands of political prisoners “may amount to crimes against humanity.”
“UN calls for accountability on 1988 prison massacres marks a turning point in the three-decade struggle,” stated Amnesty International on December 9, 2020. “Top UN human rights experts have now sent an unequivocal, and long overdue, message: the ongoing crimes of mass enforced disappearances resulting from the secret extrajudicial executions of 1988 can no longer go unaddressed and unpunished”, said Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.
1988 Massacre Survivor Mohammad Zand Testifies
During the 35th session of Hamid Noury’s trial, Mohammad Zand, a former political prisoner who spent 11 years in various prisons supporting the MEK, gave his testimony. He also lost his brother Reza as well as many of his friends and cellmates during the 1988 Massacre.
Shocking testimonies of the survivors of the 1988 massacre
Mohammad Reza Zand
Political prisoner: 1981-1992; He spent 11 years in prison.#Iran #ProsecuteRaisiNOW #EndEnforcedDisappearances pic.twitter.com/RZh2If3LPH
— NCRI-FAC (@iran_policy) August 29, 2021
Mr. Zand shared parts of his horrible experience in the Islamic Republic’s prisons. He also provided damning details, showing Noury’s direct role in the regime’s atrocities, in particular during the mass killing of 30,000 political prisoners in the summer of 1988.
“On July 28, 1988, I was in on the third floor of the prison. Prison authorities stopped bringing in newspapers. That night, after the prisoner count, [notorious interrogator] Davood Lashgari came to the ward and read out three names: Gholamhossein Eskandari, Seyyed Hossein Sobhani, and Mehran Hoveida,” Mr. Zand said in his testimony.
“Lashgari took us out of the cell and into the hallway. He blindfolded us and asked us what our charge was,” Zand said. “As soon as we said we are supporters of the MEK, the guards started to beat us. A prison guard whose name was Davood and who was trained in martial arts kicked me in the foot with his boots and broke my toe. They continued beating us for an hour.”
“Lashgari asked the prisoners the same question again, and the prisoners repeated that they were supporters of the MEK. Lashgari said, ‘Go back to your cells. We’ll come for you on Thursday,’” Mr. Zand explained.
“You Won’t See Me Again and This Regime Will Not Let Us Go Free,” My Brother Reza Said
“On Friday, July 29, they turned off the TV and banned any open airtime. My brother, Reza Zand, was walking with Mahmoud Royayie and said this has gone far beyond ordinary harassment. We need to protest, Mr. Zand continued.
“My brother was 21 years and a college student studying technology. He was arrested in September of 1981 along with his friend, Parvis Sharifi. Parviz was sentenced to life in prison and Reza to ten years behind bars. Parviz was executed in 1988,” he explained.
“Reza was trying to help those prisoners who needed financial assistance. He told my father to provide him with more money to help those prisoners. He was very kind. I asked him why he says the status quo is not normal. He answered, ‘Don’t you remember what they did to Massoud Moghbeli?’” Mr. Zand added.
“Massoud Moghbeli was transferred to the Joint Committee in March of 1988 to be released. The authorities asked him to do an interview, which he did not agree to. They sent him a message, ‘Go tell your friends we’ll come for you soon.’ Prior to Reza’s execution, my mother came to visit us. Reza told my mother, ‘You won’t see me again and this regime will not let us go free,’” Mr. Zand continued.
Mohammad Zand was later taken to solitary confinement, where he stayed for three months. He was returned to the ward in late October. He asked one of the prisoners “How many inmates are left?”
“As far as I know, you’re the last one,” the prisoner told him. “There were 160-170 prisoners in that ward before,” Zand reminded. “Of all the prisoners in Gohardasht, those few remained.”
Hundreds of @PMOIRAN members hold a rally at Ashraf 3, Albania, commemorating the memory of 30,000 political prisoners during the #1988Massacre.
They call on the international community to hold all perpetrators of the crime to account.pic.twitter.com/nwcEWkMfpL
— Iran News Update (@IranNewsUpdate1) November 10, 2021
Ten days later, Mr. Zand was allowed to meet with his parents and sister. “They asked me where is Reza? I said go and ask [officials],” he said. After a few days, regime authorities called Zands’ father and told him to go to Evin prison and bring Reza’s identification papers with him. He went to prison without the papers.
“They gave him a bag, a shirt, and a watch,” Mr. Zand said. “Reza had broken his watch as it pointed to two o’clock to indicate what time he had been executed.”
Prison authorities tried to force Zands’ father to hand over his son’s identification papers. When he did not comply, they took him to prison and, to intimidate him, they staged a mock execution for him. “My father said, ‘Execute me. I will join my son,’” Mr. Zand said.
While the trial proceeded, several witnesses of the 1988 massacre and families of the victims gathered in front of the court in Durres and spoke to the press about the Iranian regime’s crimes against MEK members and dissidents.
“At the same time, MEK members in Ashraf 3 held a gathering in memory of the victims of the 1988 massacre. During this ceremony, many political prisoners spoke and retold accounts of the atrocities that took place in Iran’s prisons. It is worth noting that hundreds of former political prisoners are now in Ashraf 3, and many of them were prepared to testify in the Stockholm court. Due to limitations in time, only a few were accepted as plaintiffs in the case,” the MEK website reported.