On Thursday, November 11, the western Albanian province of Durres hosted the 36th session of the trial of Hamid Noury, an Iranian prison official, for torturing inmates and playing a role in the extrajudicial executions 1988. Swedish authorities had already arrested Noury 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).

Survivors of 1988 Massacre Testify in Durres Court—Part One

“Today is the second session of Hamid Noury’s trial in the Durres Court. This is a rare decision made by Swedish judges to transfer the court to Albania. On October 26, the judge said this is due to the importance of MEK members’ testimonies,” said MEK Spokesperson Shahin Gobadi in a field interview with the opposition TV Simay-e Azadi.

During the last session, Mr. Mohammad Zand testified at the court, providing damning details about the involvement of Hamid Noury in torturing and hanging political prisoners in 1988. Mr. Zand had also lost his 21-year-old brother Reza during the extrajudicial executions.

Notably, on May 3, more than 150 former United Nations officials and human rights experts, including former high commissioner for human rights Mary Robinson, called on the UN to establish a “commission of inquiry into Iran’s 1988 extrajudicial executions of thousands of political prisoners.”


1988 Massacre Survivor Majid Saheb-Jam Testifies

During the 36th session of Hamid Noury’s trial, Majid Saheb-Jam, a former political prisoner who spent 17 years in various prisons supporting the MEK, gave his testimony. He lost many of his friends and cellmates during the 1988 Massacre.

During the 1988 massacre, Saheb-Jam was in Gohardasht prison, and he directly witnessed the role played by Noury and other regime officials in the 1988 massacre. In this context, the court could not ignore his testimonies.

“In 1982, I was arrested on charges of sympathizing with the Mojahedin-e Khalq Organization, and I was tried in a three-minute trial presided by Hossein Ali Nayeri, and I was sentenced to 12 years in the same year,” Mr. Saheb-Jam said in his testimony.

“In early 1988, he was transferred from Evin prison to Gohardasht,” Mr. Saheb-Jam said. “In 1986, prison authorities were classifying prisoners based on their stance toward the MEK. Those who stood firm in their support for the Iranian opposition were transferred to Gohardasht.”

I Saw Hamid Noury There, Saheb-Jam Recalls

“They brought us to a corridor, a ward that was almost empty, and the guards stood in lines to form a tunnel for the prisoners,” Mr. Saheb-Jam explained how the guards passed prisoners through the human tunnel and beat them with sticks and cables.

“I was surprised to see [Hamid Noury] there,” Saheb-Jam recalled. “I had seen him more than ten times in Evin,” he continued pointing out to the jailed executioner.

“The prison authorities wanted to determine which prisoners were standing firm [in their support for the MEK],” Saheb-Jam said. The task was given to Davood Lashgari, who took the prisoners to another ward for interrogation.”

“In these interrogations, which were very intense, after going through the basics such as our first and last name, they asked, ‘Are you a supporter of the MEK or any other group?” Saheb-Jam said. “And then the more violent interrogation began to determine our status.”

Friday Prayers sermons of July 29th, 1988, Determined Our Fate

“On July 29, 1988, the Friday Prayers sermons were being broadcasted in the prison. During Friday Prayers, high-ranking clerics spoke about the regime’s policies on different issues. On that Friday, the message of the Friday Prayer was that prisoners should not be tolerated in prisons. That sermon sealed our fate,” Saheb-Jam said.

“After that, Davood Lashgari took us to the main rooms, where he asked our names, particulars, and our crime. This determined our fate,” Mr. Saheb-Jam continued.

“On July 30, all televisions were removed from prison. Newspapers stopped being delivered and all meetings were cut off. In the next few days, the prisoners tried to communicate with other wards and get information about what was happening. Among the things they learned was that a delegation had arrived in the prison. Among its members was Hossein Ali Nayyeri, Sharia judge of Evin prison and the head of the Revolutionary Courts,” he explained.

“We knew that Nayyeri was not here to stop meetings and breaks. He was here to make a serious decision,” Saheb-Jam said.

Nayyeri was one of four regime officials who constituted the “Death Commission,” a group tasked with deciding which prisoners would live and which would be sent to the gallows. Other members of the commission included current regime president Ebrahim Raisi and former justice minister Mostafa Pourmohammadi. The Death Commission summoned political prisoners one by one and decided their fate in trials that lasted no more than a few minutes. Prisoners who refused to disavow their support for the MEK were immediately sent to the gallows.

In the afternoon, Saheb Jam further explained his time in prison. He was initially sentenced to 12 years in prison but ended up spending 17 years behind bars.

“In 1992 my father passed away. I received a furlough for my father’s funeral,” Saheb-Jam said. “When I returned to prison, they said you recruited a college student during the funeral ceremony to join the MEK. They then sentenced me to death. Then the ruling was changed to life in prison, and then nine years in prison. Finally, I was released in 1999,” Majid Saheb-Jam continued.

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.