Friday marked the seventeenth session of the trial of Hamid Nouri, an Iranian regime official charged with torturing prisoners and taking part in the 1988 massacre of thousands of political prisoners. Nouri is being tried in a Swedish court after being apprehended during a trip. As one of the authorities of Gohardasht Prison (Karaj), Nouri 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.
During the seventeenth session, Akbar Bandali, a former political prisoner and a supporter of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), testified before the court.
Bandali was born in Tehran and has an MSc of geology from Tabriz University. He was arrested in the summer of 1981 on Charges of supporting the MEK while he was on military service.
In his remarks, Bandali said that in 1987, a year before the mass executions, one of the prisoners asked Nouri why they were being transferred to the ward known as “Jahad,” to which Nouri responded, “We want to execute the prisoners who are up there.” Bandali emphasized that the 1988 massacre was in the plans since 1987.
During the summer of 1988, the Iranian regime carried out the swift and brutal execution of more than 30,000 political prisoners, mostly MEK members and supporters. The purge was directly ordered by Ruhollah Khomeini in an edict that explicitly stated that anyone supporting the MEK is an enemy of God and deserves to be executed.
Bandali, who spent 13 years in the regime’s prisons, testified before the court that when the executions started in July 1988, MEK prisoners were taken to the “Death Commission,” a group of judges who summoned political prisoners and tried them in kangaroo courts that lasted no longer than a few minutes. Bandali said the prisoners told the death commission that they supported the MEK were executed. One of the members of the death commission in Tehran and Karaj was Ebrahim Raisi, the regime’s current president.
During his prison term, Bandali was brutally tortured and sentenced to 15 years in prison. Bandali also witnessed violent tortures of other inmates during his time in Evin prison. Bandali said that as the 1988 massacre started, prison authorities constantly carried the bodies of executed prisoners, wrapped in sheets, into trucks and transferred them out of the prison.
“There was an IRGC guard on top of the truck and we saw the corpses being loaded into the back of the truck,” Bandali said. “I felt sick. I was going to explode from sadness.”
Bandali also said that after the first and second waves of executions, the prison guards told the prisoners to report on cellmates who supported the MEK.
Bandali quoted another prisoner and said, “Nouri told the prisoners who weren’t executed that they must beg for pardon from Khomeini ‘because he has ordered us to execute all of you.’” Nouri had also said that if they wanted to carry out Khomeini’s order, they would have to “executed half of Iran’s population.”
In addition to Gohardasht, Bandali spent time in Evin, Jamshidiyeh, and Ghezel Hesar prison, where he was tortured and witnessed the execution of many prisoners. Bandali testified that Nouri was the leader of guards who beat prisoners. On one occasion, when Nouri had realized that Bandali’s knee was hurt, he tortured him on the same spot and beat him violently.
Bandali also said that to punish prisoners, Nouri took them to the “gas chamber,” a small cell that had no windows and openings. Prison guards covered the slit under the door with blankets and kept the prisoners in the cell for hours until they passed out from lack of oxygen. When the prisoners entered a comma-like state, the guards took them out of the gas chamber and, led by Nouri, beat them with batons and electric cables.
While the court proceeded, a large group of Iranians resumed their protest rally in front of the court, calling for the prosecution of senior regime officials, including Raisi and supreme leader Ali Khamenei. Many of the protesters were family members of the thousands of dissidents murdered or executed by the regime.
The 1988 massacre has been described as a war crime and crime against humanity. Legal experts also recognize it as a “genocide” and should be addressed by international tribunals.
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