An Iranian citizen has been jailed in Sweden on suspicion of carrying out crimes against humanity and murder in the late 1980s in Iran, a Swedish prosecutor said Wednesday, the same period of mass executions by Tehran.
Prosecutor Karolina Wieslander said the unidentified man is suspected is of committing the crimes between July 28, 1988, and August 31, 1988, in Tehran. The prosecutor did not elaborate.
His lawyer Lars Hultgren told the Swedish news agency TT that the man insists he is innocent, adding “they have taken the wrong guy.”
TT said the 58-year-old man was arrested Saturday at Stockholm’s international airport. The news agency said authorities suspect the man worked in a prison where many prisoners were hanged, without elaborating.
The man’s alleged crimes correspond with the end of Iran’s long war with Iraq, which began when Saddam Hussein invaded Iran in 1980. By 1988, 1 million people had been killed in a conflict that featured trench warfare, Iranian human-wave attacks and chemical weapons assaults launched by Iraq.
In July 1988, then-Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini accepted a United Nations-brokered cease-fire in the conflict, calling it “more deadly to me than poison.” But within days, members of the Iranian opposition group Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, heavily armed by Saddam, stormed across the Iranian border in a surprise attack.
Iran ultimately blunted their assault, but the attack set the stage for the sham retrials of political prisoners, militants and others that would become known as “death commissions.”
Some who appeared were asked to identify themselves. Those who responded “mujahedeen” were sent to their deaths, while others were questioned about their willingness to “clear minefields for the army of the Islamic Republic,” according to a 1990 Amnesty International report.
International rights groups estimate that as many as 5,000 people were executed, while the MEK puts the number at 30,000 without offering evidence to support their claim.
Iran has never fully acknowledged the executions, apparently carried out on Khomeini’s orders, though some argue that other top officials were effectively in charge in the months before his 1989 death.