Report 49: Introduction to the second block of recorded testimonies
In our previous report, we provided a summary of the introduction to the first block of recorded testimonies presented before the Court of Appeal on 7 February 2023.
In this report, we have summarized the introduction by the prosecution, plaintiff counsels and defense counsels to the second block of recorded testimonies held on 22 March 2023. During these presentations, the focus of the prosecution and the counsels is to direct the Court of Appeal to what the Court should pay particular attention to while watching the recordings of the testimonies given in the District Court.
Opening of the trial day
The defendant was present during the day’s court session and entered the room accompanied by representatives from the jail, dressed in a green tracksuit provided to him by the jail. The presiding judge Christer Lund initiated the day’s proceedings by welcoming everyone and announced that the schedule of the trial had been finalized and that the last day of the trial would be 17 November 2023. Judge Lund further stated that watching the first block of the recorded testimonies from the District Court had gone well but that the recordings were made in a way so that the screens inside of the District Court were not visible. Since the Court of Appeal has access to all evidentiary material it had concluded that it could still understand the testimonies and which piece of evidence that was referred to on the screens. Yet, judge Lund requested the parties to clearly state during their presentations throughout the day which evidentiary material that they had referred to during specific testimonies in the District Court to facilitate the Court of Appeal’s review of the second block of recordings. Lastly, judge Lund announced that the prosecution had sent in additional evidence which the prosecution would present during the day’s proceeding.
The prosecution’s statement
The prosecution started by stating that its’ presentation would focus on the testimonies by 12 plaintiffs given (and recorded) in the District Court.
The prosecution began with Plaintiff 16 but as the Court was experiencing some technical issues, the prosecution moved on to the next plaintiff before returning to the testimony of this plaintiff later in the day.
The prosecution continued with Plaintiff 13 and read a transcript of a hearing with the plaintiff that was held in Geneva in February 2018 by the organization Justice for the Victims of the 1988 Massacre in Iran (JVMI). During the hearing, the plaintiff had spoken about his experiences around the time of the 1988 mass executions, where he had mentioned Naserian and his encounters with two people who are named on the prosecution’s list of executed persons. The plaintiff had also mentioned how only 4 out of a total of 87 persons who he had been with the night before were still around after he was brought to the so-called “Death Committee”.
The prosecution then moved on to Plaintiff 27. The prosecution showed sketches and a picture of Gohardasht prison and explained that it was unclear which of the sketches had been shown in District Court.
The prosecution then continued with the plaintiffs who live in Albania. The prosecution began with Plaintiff 32 and explained that it would focus its presentation on an incident which the plaintiff had described both in his hearing in District Court and in a previous interview with Amnesty International for its report “Blood-Soaked Secrets”. In the interview, the plaintiff had described how he was brought to execution in Gohardasht prison together with other prisoners. He had been brought into a room by a guard where he had seen 12 ropes hanging from the ceiling. Some guards were pulling the legs of the prisoners who were hanging in the gallows to cause them to die faster. When several prisoners started singing together, a senior guard shouted “kill them all quickly!”. The plaintiff had fainted and was pulled out of the room by a guard. He had explained in the interview that he believed he had survived only because he had repeatedly denounced MEK in interrogations.
The prosecution then moved on to Plaintiff 31 and noted that he had conducted an interview in 2018 for the organization Justice for Iran which had not been taken up as evidence in the District Court. The prosecution read parts of the interview in which the plaintiff had described how the defendant had read out the name of a prisoner to be called to execution but how he had given up and left the prisoner alone when he had not responded to his name being called multiple times. Through this, the prisoner escaped execution and was released two years later. The plaintiff had also described in the interview how the defendant had gifted the guards with sweets in celebration of killing prisoners belonging to MEK.
The prosecution then moved on to Plaintiff 35 and his book “A Galaxy of Stars – Memories of Prison” which was published in 2009 or 2010 (according to the plaintiff). The prosecution particularly highlighted a footnote in his book in which it is described how the metal bars covering the windows of the prison cells in Gohardasht prison could be bent and that this allowed the prisoners to observe what was happening outside the prison through the windows. The prosecution further described statements made by the plaintiff in an interview with JVMI in October 2016.
The prosecution then introduced Plaintiff 30 and interviews that he had given prior to the arrest of the defendant in Sweden. The prosecution mentioned an interview he did for JVMI in October 2016 as well as an interview with Amnesty International in 2018 for its report “Blood-Soaked Secrets”, where he talked about how his brother, who was executed in Gohardasht prison during the time period that the trial concerns. The Plaintiff had told Amnesty that when the prosecutor had visited Evin prison to tell their father to send his brother’s ID book to the authority for annulment, their father was promised to get to know the location of where his son was buried in return. However, the Authority did not fulfill this promise and his father refused to sign a false statement that his son was dead since they did not state that he had been executed. As a result of his refusal, his father was imprisoned and tortured for 3 days. The prosecution noted that the name of the plaintiff’s brother existed on the list of executed persons created by the Iran Tribunal and that it was noted on the list that he had been executed by hanging on 31 July 1988. While his age was recorded as 29 years on the list, the plaintiff had said that his brother was only 28 years old at the time of his execution.
The prosecution then moved on to Plaintiff 34 and statements that he had made in an interview for JVMI in October 2016. Amongst other things, the Plaintiff had recounted in the interview how the “assistant prosecutor” (allegedly the defendant) had noted around the time of the mass executions that the plaintiff’s name was neither on the list of prisoners that were supposed to die nor the list of prisoners that were supposed to live. As such, the Plaintiff had been sent away from the so-called death corridor and put in isolation.
The prosecution then continued to describe Plaintiff 33 and his book “Aftabkaran – Memories From Prison” which was published in 2007. The prosecution explained that the plaintiff was asked about his book during his hearing in the District Court and that information from the book had been used for the prosecution’s statement of facts. In his book, the plaintiff had described the defendant as a guard and later described him as assistant prosecutor to Naserian. He had written that the defendant first worked in Evin prison and later in Gohardasht prison. In his book, the plaintiff had also detailed an incident in which the defendant had come up to him while he and other prisoners had been placed in a row. The defendant had asked him and another prisoner whether they had been brought to the death committee yet and eventually sent them back to their cells with the instruction to wait until their names were called in the following day. The prosecution continued to read excerpts from the book “Aftabkaran” and highlighted a list with names of executed people. Three of the names on the list are also on the prosecution’s list of executed people (which is annexed to the indictment), the prosecution noted.
The prosecution further brought up an interview with JVMI that the plaintiff had done in October 2016, in which the plaintiff had described how 42 prisoners were brought before the death committee one after another. The plaintiff was brought before the death committee in the middle of the day. He was taken through a corridor where he saw the assistant prosecutor, which was the defendant, bringing prisoners to the part of the prison where the executions took place.
The prosecution also showed a video made by MEK in which the plaintiff described the death corridor and the scenes that took place in the corridor during the mass executions. In the video, the plaintiff also mentioned the person who the prosecution claims is the defendant and how that person accompanied the plaintiff and his fellow prisoners down the corridor while holding 10-15 paper notes in his hands.
The Court then paused for a short break and once the trial resumed, the prosecution played a video of an interview with Plaintiff 16. The prosecution noted that the Plaintiff had passed during the pandemic, but that he had been heard by the police during the autumn of 2020. The plaintiff had said during his hearing that he had seen the defendant several times in the death corridor and that he had also seen him before in Evin prison. The prosecution then showed another clip from a video produced by MEK, that consisted of an interview with Plaintiff 16 in which he described his arrest, trial and experiences from Gohardasht prison.
After concluding its introduction of the second block of recorded testimonies, the prosecution addressed a statement made by plaintiff counsel Lewis on 19 January 2023. The prosecution had concerns regarding a footnote that had been used by Lewis, and the prosecution stated that it had been informed by a spectator to the trial who spoke Farsi that there was a more extensive original document than the one used by plaintiff counsel Lewis. The prosecution had therefore assessed the source and was able to find that the information was from an article that regarded a statement made by Iran’s minister of intelligence after the start of the 1979 revolution. After it had been extracted from the police and translated to Swedish, the prosecution compared it with the English version used by plaintiff counsel Lewis and concluded that words, paragraphs, and names from the original document were missing from Lewis’ evidentiary material. The prosecution then pointed to some discrepancies that it considered to be relevant and directed two questions to plaintiff counsel Lewis. The first question was about who the author of the article was, and the second question was whether the statement was a quote of a text or a reference. The prosecution and police had concluded that the text was from a website by the “Political studies and Research Institute”. However, they could not find further information about the creator behind the website and stated that it most likely was regime friendly. The prosecution further noted that according to the original source, Rajavi (MEK’s leader) had planned and staged the attacks on 27 September 1988 to coincide with armed protests in Teheran in accordance with requests by Saddam Hussein. The prosecution then pointed to a paragraph that had been omitted in the text presented by Lewis and which mentioned how Saddam’s army, which supported MEK, had launched extensive attacks on the western and southern parts of Iran and that MEK’s forces had crossed the border to Iran with the support of the (Iraqi) Baath Army Air Force. The prosecution further underlined that whoever had written the article considered MEK as mercenaries for Saddam.
Judge Lund requested that Lewis answer the questions posed by the prosecutors in writing within a week.
Plaintiff counsel Hesselberg’s statement
Plaintiff Counsel Bengt Hesselberg took the floor to introduce the Court to his client, Plaintiff 16, who was arrested on 9 September 1981 and sentenced to two years in prison for selling publications by MEK. His prison sentence was prolonged to twelve years in prison and later shortened to eight years in prison, although there was never a trial. He was first detained in Ghezel Hesar prison but was transferred to Gohardasht prison in 1985 and released on 11 September 1989. Hesselberg noted that Plaintiff 16 had met the defendant about 100 times as the defendant was present when the plaintiff was brought to the death corridor. On 1 August 1988, the defendant called the plaintiff’s name and brought him to a room from where he was then brought to the death committee. Hesselberg noted that the plaintiff had also mentioned the defendant as one of the main “authorities” inside Gohardasht when he participated in an interview as part of the documentary “Blood Moon” which was produced by the organization Justice for Iran prior to the arrest of the defendant.
Hesselberg further noted that the plaintiff’s testimony had been considered to hold a high evidentiary value by the District Court and that it had assessed his testimony as credible. He further noted that the plaintiff had never been imprisoned in Evin prison and that this spoke against the defendant’s claim that he had only worked in Evin prison and not in Gohardasht prison. Hesselberg added that seven other plaintiffs had seen Plaintiff 16 in Gohardasht prison and that three of them had seen him during the execution period.
Plaintiff counsel Hjalmarsson’s statement
When it was plaintiff counsel Göran Hjalmarsson’s turn to introduce some of his clients, he began with Plaintiff 13 who was arrested when he was 20 years old due to his sympathies for MEK. He was first given a death sentence which was later converted into 7 years in prison, although he was not released until he had served 10 years in prison. Hjalmarsson noted that the plaintiff had fled from Iran to England but that it had incorrectly been stated in the District Court’s judgement that he had fled to Germany.
The plaintiff had met the defendant for the first time in 1988 about 6 months before the mass executions. He had heard that the defendant was the deputy for Naserian. The plaintiff was brought before the death committee once. The same day he witnessed a conversation between the defendant and Naserian and after that day he witnessed the defendant and Naserian bringing more prisoners to the death corridor. Hjalmarsson noted that the plaintiff had expressed in his hearing in District Court that there was no doubt that the person he had met in Gohardasht prison was the same person as the defendant. He also referred to an interview that the plaintiff had done previously with JVMI where he spoke about his experiences from Gohardasht prison confirming what he had said in his hearing in the District Court. Lastly, Hjalmarsson asked the Court to take notice of how emotional the plaintiff became during his hearing in District Court when talking about his experiences from Gohardasht prison and the friends that he lost there.
Hjalmarsson then moved on to discuss Plaintiff 33 who was sentenced to 10 years in prison due to his association with MEK. Hjalmarsson underlined that the Court should consider that the plaintiff had met the defendant before, during and after the execution period. The plaintiff was also convinced that the person in question was in fact the defendant. He had met the defendant a few months after he was placed in Gohardasht prison. On another occasion before the mass executions, the defendant was present while the plaintiff was physically abused by guards. During the execution period the plaintiff saw the defendant call the names of prisoners and bring them to the part of the prison where the executions took place. Hjalmarsson underlined that the plaintiff had also described the defendant’s role in the mass executions in a TV-show that was aired 23 years ago. Additionally, the plaintiff had described the defendant 17 times in his book and has mentioned the defendant as an assistant to the assistant prosecutor in Gohardasht prison in an interview with JVMI prior to the arrest of the defendant. Hjalmarsson underlined that the District Court had considered his testimony to be credible. Lastly, Hjalmarsson mentioned that the plaintiff had suffered a lot as a result of his experiences from being imprisoned in Gohardasht prison.
Hjalmarsson then proceeded to discuss Plaintiff 34 who was arrested at age 14 for having participated in a protest organized by MEK and sentenced to 10 years in prison. The plaintiff was brought before the death committee once during the 1988 mass-executions. The plaintiff met the defendant several times during his time in Gohardasht prison before and during the mass execution period. The plaintiff was taken to the death committee three times and to the death corridor six times. All those times he saw the defendant call the names of prisoners and bring prisoners to the committee. Hjalmarsson asked the Court to particularly pay attention to the fact that the defendant, according to the plaintiff in his hearing before the District Court, had told the plaintiff that he was lucky not to be executed. Hjalmarsson further underlined that the plaintiff was certain that the person he had met in Gohardasht prison was the defendant. He concluded his statement by highlighting that the plaintiff had testified before the District Court about how deeply he had suffered as a result of his experiences from Gohardasht prison and that there were in particular two fellow prisoners (who were executed) whom he would never forget.
Plaintiff counsel Lewis’ statement
After a lunch break, the proceedings resumed, and Judge Lund gave plaintiff counsel Lewis the floor. Plaintiff counsel Lewis begun with his client Plaintiff 30 who was arrested in 1980 when he was 16 years old. The plaintiff arrived at Gohardasht prison in 1985, where his brother was also imprisoned. Lewis noted that the plaintiff had met the defendant several times. The first time he had seen the defendant was in 1365 (1986/1987) when the defendant and Naserian visited his prison unit and introduced themselves. Thereafter, he had seen the defendant without wearing a blindfold several times when the defendant visited his unit. Lewis underlined that the plaintiff had described the physical attributes of the defendant during his hearing in District Court. He further repeated what the plaintiff had explained in District Court how prisoners were classified and brought to execution in 1988, and how the plaintiff had testified about 10 prisoners, including the plaintiff’s brother, being taken from their cells on 8 Mordad 1367 (30 July 1988) to never be seen again. Lewis further recounted the plaintiff’s observations around the time of the 1988 mass executions, including describing the role of prison staff and members of the death committee. Among other people, the plaintiff had seen the defendant in the death corridor collecting a group of prisoners and taking them tothe hosseinieh. Two of the times that the plaintiff was brought to the death corridor, he heard the defendant read out the names of prisoners. On one of the occasions, he also saw the defendant walk away with prisoners. After his encounter with the death committee, the plaintiff had been put in an isolation cell for months and was once visited by the defendant and Naserian while he was not wearing a blindfold. In early 1989, the plaintiff was transferred to Evin prison and saw the defendant there at the dadyar office. Lewis underlined that the plaintiff had immediately recognized the defendant when he saw the photo of him after his arrest in Sweden in 2019.
Lewis then moved on to Plaintiff 31 who was arrested in 1361 (1982) and sentenced to 12 years in prison. The plaintiff had stated in his hearing in District Court that he had seen the defendant already on arrival at Gohardasht prison. The defendant had asked him and the prisoners what sentences they had received and informed them about where they would be placed. The plaintiff had recognized the defendant as he had seen him before in Evin prison. The defendant had been a pasdar (guard) in his unit at the time, so the plaintiff had seen him daily. The plaintiff had later learned that the defendant had become assistant dadyar. Lewis continued to recount the plaintiff’s observations during the period leading up to the mass executions and his observations from being brought to the death committee. Lewis noted that the plaintiff had on several occasions seen the defendant call the names of prisoners and lead prisoners to the hosseinieh/amphitheatre (where the executions allegedly took place). The plaintiff had also seen the defendant come back from the hosseinieh with sweets that he offered to the other guards. The defendant had also called out the plaintiff’s name and had brought him halfway to the hosseinieh together with other prisoners until they suddenly turned around and were brought to a ward instead. At one point, the plaintiff was brought to an empty ward and asked to pick out his bag among loads of bags. He was also asked to say whether he recognized any of the bags as belonging to any of the executed prisoners. Naserian told him that the prisoners were executed in accordance with Khomeini’s fatwa. After the plaintiff was transferred to Evin prison in 1367 (1988/1989), he also saw the defendant there several times. When the plaintiff went to the prosecutor’s office in Evin prison in 1371 or 1372 (1992/1993/1994) for new interrogations, he saw that the defendant was there. Later the plaintiff’s mother had told him what the real name of the defendant was.
Plaintiff counsel Lewis continued his statement by discussing Plaintiff 32 who was arrested in 1361 (1982/1983) and sentenced to 15 years in prison. He served his sentence first in Evin prison and then in Gohardasht prison. He saw the defendant for the first time when the defendant was a pasdar (guard) in Evin prison and was told that the person was named the code name that the defendant allegedly used in prison. Despite being transferred to Gohardasht prison already in 1361 (1982/1983), he did not see the defendant there until 1365 (1986/1987) but then saw him on multiple occasions. Lewis underlined that the plaintiff had been able to describe the defendant’s physical attributes very well. He further recounted what the plaintiff had said in his hearing in District Court about his observations in the months and days leading up to the 1988 mass executions and his observations during the weeks that the executions took place. Around the time of the mass executions, the plaintiff had observed the defendant interrogating the prisoners about their political affiliations and their sentences, entering the hosseinieh and collecting and bringing prisoners away to a side building and to the hosseinieh. The plaintiff had himself been escorted by the defendant to the death corridor. Just like the prosecutor, Lewis also underlined that the plaintiff had been brought inside the hosseinieh and seen twelve people hang from the gallows. He added that the plaintiff had specifically mentioned that he had seen the defendant kick the chairs away from under the prisoners at the gallows. Lewis noted that the District Court had found in its verdict that it could not be established that the defendant had kicked away the chairs from under the prisoners since the plaintiff was the only one to claim that he had been inside the hosseinieh and that his statements concerning this experience differed from what he had previously expressed in a newspaper article about his experiences and in an interview with JVMI in which he never mentioned the names of those kicking away the chairs. Plaintiff counsel Lewis argued that there were other people out there who claimed to have been inside the hosseinieh but was interrupted by judge Lund who asked him not to argue as much and to instead focus on highlighting what the Court should focus on while watching the recorded testimonies from District Court.
Lewis moved on to Plaintiff 35 who was arrested for the second time in 1364 (1985/1986) and sentenced to 9 years in prison. He served his sentence in Evin prison, Ghezel Hesar prison and Gohardasht prison. He saw the defendant for the first time when he arrived at Gohardasht prison and saw him there several times without a blindfold before the mass executions began. When the mass executions had begun, the plaintiff was interrogated by the defendant and Naserian. He was wearing a blindfold at the time but recognized the defendant’s voice. The plaintiff had also seen the defendant and a guard bring prisoners to the hosseinieh, and on one occasion the defendant had watched as two guards were physically abusing him. Later, the plaintiff saw the defendant interview prisoners before they were released and in 1372 (1993/1994), the plaintiff saw the defendant when he visited the prosecutor’s office in Evin prison.
Plaintiff counsel Lewis continued by discussing Plaintiff 7 who was arrested in 1360 (1981) and was first sentenced to death in two different trials but had his sentence adjusted to 12 years in prison in a third trial. The plaintiff had met the defendant already in 1983 in Evin prison, where the defendant was a guard. He met the defendant many times without a blindfold in Gohardasht prison. During the mass execution period, the plaintiff saw the defendant interrogate prisoners, call out their names in the death corridor and bring prisoners to the hosseinieh. Lewis also recounted what the plaintiff had said during his hearing in District Court about his observations during the mass execution period and the months leading up to it.
Lewis moved on to Plaintiff 27 who was arrested in 1360 (1981/1982) and sentenced to 10 years in prison. He served his sentence in Evin prison, Ghezel Hesar prison and Gohardasht prison. The plaintiff met the defendant many times in Gohardasht prison. During the mass execution period, he saw the defendant driving a wheelbarrow with rope in it in the prison yard. He also saw the defendant call out the names of prisoners in the death corridor, bring prisoners to the hosseinieh and saw the defendant coming back from the hosseinieh with rings and watches. The plaintiff was also interrogated by the defendant about his sentence and saw the defendant when he was brought to the death committee. Lewis also recounted what the plaintiff had said during his hearing in District Court about the mass execution period and the months leading up to it.
Lewis then addressed the case of Plaintiff 9 who was arrested in 1360 (1981/1982). The plaintiff had seen the defendant in Gohardasht prison many times without a blindfold and had learned to recognize his voice. The plaintiff was also beaten by the defendant in 1366 (1987/1988). On 28 Tir 1367 (19 July 1988), the plaintiff and the prisoners in his department were transferred by the defendant and Naserian to another department. When the prisoners had asked why they were being moved, the defendant had responded that they were going to be executed. Lewis also recounted what the plaintiff had said during his hearing in District Court about his observations from Gohardasht prison during the mass executions and the months leading up to it. On 25 Mordad 1367 (16 August 1988) the death committee suddenly got up to leave Gohardasht prison around lunch time and the plaintiff, who was in the death corridor, heard the defendant and Naserian trying to persuade the committee to stay.
When finalizing his introduction of the plaintiffs, Lewis asked to say a few words about the evidence and to comment on the remarks by the prosecution at the beginning of the day. Judge Lund answered that Lewis was expected to give his answer to the prosecution’s question in writing but that he could shortly comment on it verbally. Lewis explained that when he had presented information from the article in question, this was made in the form of a compilation of reports with the purpose to prove that Iraqi forces did not participate in Operation Eternal Light. He argued that the article was a mixture of detailed information and propaganda and stated that it was not unusual for the regime to refer to MEK as mercenaries, and that it was natural for him to not quote such remarks. Lewis continued to argue that the only part of the statement in the article that he felt that he must check is the part that claims that Iraqi forces would have provided air support to MEK. Lewis further argued that the information from the article that he had used contained information in line with the argumentation of the prosecution: that MEK had been forced to coordinate their activities with the Iraqi army and that MEK had been allowed to buy weapons from Iraq. The only part that Lewis considered as propaganda was the part that said that MEK received weapons from Saddam Hussein.
When Lewis had finalized his remark, the Court took a 15-minute break. When the trial resumed, the prosecution asked Lewis whether it was correctly understood that Lewis had deliberately omitted parts of the text that he presented during his introductory statement because he considered it to be propaganda. Lewis confirmed this and said that he would return with a response in writing.
Judge Lund then gave the floor to the defense counsels.
The defense counsels’ statement
Defense counsel Bodström began by addressing the defendant’s contact with his Iranian lawyer. The defense had arranged for the jail to organize a meeting between the defendant and his Iranian lawyer, but then the defendant was moved to another jail and that jail had refused the meeting since the defendant did not have a permit for a meeting at that specific jail.
Bodström underlined that his intention was not to criticize the Court nor the prosecutor, but that it was a violation of the defendant’s rights not to have access to the documents and books that he needed to prepare an effective defense. Bodström was skeptical about how the correctional service delivered diverging answers, which created enormous problems for the defense counsels and the defendant. Bodström was also disappointed that the defendant could not receive visits from his son.
The defense then moved on to its statement concerning the second block of recorded testimonies from the District Court. The defense argued that the four main patterns for the Court to keep in mind while watching the recorded testimonies were the following: that there was a clear agenda behind the statements of many plaintiffs, that some plaintiffs had in fact considered the death committee as a pardon committee, that there were other people who held the main responsibility for the events that took place in Gohardasht prison and that the plaintiffs’ statements did not in fact indicate that the defendant had robbed anyone of their life.
Bodström expressed that what he found to be the most remarkable about the testimonies that the Court was about to watch was not what was said in those testimonies, but rather what was not said. The District Court’s verdict and the plaintiffs’ statements focused on the defendant’s tasks and presence in prison, but not on whether the defendant had in fact killed someone.
As Bodström moved on to the next issue, he was interrupted by the prosecution which stated that the defense’s statements went beyond the scope of the trial session and that the counsels would have time to argue their points later in the proceedings. Bodström opposed this, upon which Judge Lund intervened and allowed Bodström to continue.
Bodström went on to discuss the influence of Plaintiff 1. He argued that the testimonies of other plaintiffs would have sounded different if Plaintiff 1 had not been involved in the case. He brought up the testimony of Plaintiff 9 as an example, and that the plaintiff had said that he had read both Plaintiff 1 and Plaintiff 33’s books. Bodström pointed to the fact that the plaintiff had made references to specific pages in those books in the cross-examination.
Bodström then moved on to the argument that the death committee had been a pardon committee and highlighted Plaintiff 9 who had said in his hearing before the District Court that the preparations for the mass executions had begun in the prisons before Operation Eternal Light. Bodström further stated that Plaintiff 9 had said that the transfer of prisoners between prisons formed part of the preparation for the mass executions, although the plaintiff had himself called this an educated guess.
Bodström also mentioned how Plaintiff 9 had said that a fellow prisoner had said that the committee was a pardon committee. He further brought up what Plaintiff 9 had said in his hearing about the questions that the committee asked him and how these had been focused on whether he applied for pardon, whether he was a sympathizer of MEK and whether he would denounce MEK in a recorded interview. Bodström argued that the questions were not about the plaintiff’s guilt and that the nature of the questions were forward-looking to determine whether the plaintiff could be pardoned or not.
Bodström further stated that it was the committee that made the decisions about who to pardon and that the guards did not have any say in it. He argued that he, the prosecution, and the Court did not have enough information about the command structure of the prison and that it was reasonable to believe that a prison of the size of Gohardasht would have a comprehensive structure. It was difficult to comment on the command structure of the prison since there was no one from the prison to ask within the context of this trial. There have been unqualified guesses about the role of the defendant in the prison, and the motives behind this trial had caused the defendant to be described to have had a bigger role than authors of various reports or books have previously described him to have. Bodström argued that when listening to the testimonies of the plaintiffs it is obvious that it was the committee that had decision making powers and that the committee would not even listen to the defendant and Naserian when they pleaded with the committee to not leave the prison. This spoke to the defendant’s lack of influence in general and over which prisoners to pardon.
Bodström further argued that Plaintiff 35’s book has been used as evidence in the case despite the fact that the plaintiff had not been able to fact check the information in the book. Gohardasht prison possibly being the toughest prison in the world, it is unlikely that any information could have slipped out of it, Bodström argued.
Defense counsel Rampe then took the floor and urged the Court to pay attention to Plaintiff 35’s testimony and the fact that what he said about the role of the defendant in Gohardasht prison, and that the plaintiff had never stated what the tasks of the defendant were but rather talked about his own conclusions on the defendant’s role.
Rampe further argued that it was the defendant’s own actions that should be decisive for whether he can be sentenced to the crimes in question and that the testimonies of the plaintiffs contained very little information about the defendant’s actions. She further argued that many of those who had been heard in District Court had listened to the previous hearings in court and had taken part of the prosecution’s introductory statements before being heard themselves. Several of those who had been heard in the case were still active members of MEK and some lived in MEK’s camp in Albania.
Rampe further argued that several plaintiffs had added people to their stories as the case proceeded, and brought up plaintiffs 34, 35 and 30 as examples. Plaintiff 34 had said in his hearing in District Court that the defendant had accompanied him to the committee but had said in his hearing with the police that the defendant did not accompany him. Similarly, Plaintiff 35 had said in his hearing before the Court that he had seen the defendant upon his arrival to prison but there was no mention of the defendant on the five pages that were dedicated to his arrival to prison in his book “A Galaxy of Stars”. He had, however, mentioned other prison employees on those pages.
As an example of contradictory information in the plaintiffs’ testimonies, Rampe claimed that Plaintiff 33 had said that guards would wear civilian clothes in prison while Witness 20 had said that only employees of the dadyar office wore civilian clothes.
Rampe further highlighted the testimony given by Plaintiff 32 in the District Court and argued that what he had said there about being brought into the hosseinieh diverged from what he had said about that particular incident prior to the arrest of the defendant. In an interview with JVMI, the plaintiff did not mention the presence of the defendant inside the hosseinieh but did mention Lashkari and Naserian. In his interview he had not mentioned people hanging from the gallows or chairs being kicked from under the feet of prisoners. The incident was mentioned by the plaintiff a year later in an interview with Amnesty International and he again did not mention the defendant’s presence in the hosseinieh. In an article by the plaintiff on MEK:s website, he wrote about the incident and again did not mention the defendant but did mention the presence of Naserian. Rampe underlined that even Plaintiff 1 had considered Plaintiff 32’s account about the hosseinieh to be a “full-blown fantasy”.
Rampe further urged the Court to listen carefully to the testimonies by the plaintiffs and highlighted that no one had said that the defendant had any influence over which prisoners were taken to the hosseinieh. She underlined that Plaintiff 7 had said in his testimony that it was Nayyeri who made the decisions and that the defendant, according to some testimonies, had asked what to do with the remaining prisoners. Rampe again underlined that it is obvious from the testimonies of the plaintiffs that it was the committee that made the decisions and that the defendant simply engaged in preventive and follow-up work.
After Rampe had concluded her statement, defense counsel Bodström reiterated that there was not enough information about the command structure at the prison and urged the Court to consider that it was unlikely that the prisoners would meet higher-ranking officials on the floor, and that the defendant would not have had time for executive work when he was continuously present at the floor.
When the defense counsels had concluded their statement, the judge declared the trial closed for the day.
In the next report, we will summarize the content of the next court session which is scheduled for 16 May 2023.