The family of a Swedish EU diplomat imprisoned in Iran for more than 663 days fear he will be given a death sentence or life imprisonment within the coming days after prosecutors sought the maximum sentence in his case.

“I ask how can this be happening? He is my brother and I’m like: they want to kill my younger brother? That is very hard to take in. I also feel so sad for him being there alone, you know, when I see the pictures of him I just want to be there for him,” said Johan Floderus’s sister, Ingrid.

Floderus, an Oxford, Soas University of London and University of Uppsala graduate, worked on the Afghanistan desk of the EU’s external services department before he was detained on 17 April 2022 at Tehran airport after visiting a friend working for the Swedish embassy in Iran. He had been in the country several times on joint EU-Iran programmes to support Afghan adults and children fleeing the Taliban.

“We have been very clear from the beginning: Mr Floderus is innocent. There are absolutely no grounds for keeping Johan Floderus in detention. The EU continues to call for Johan Floderus to be freed immediately,” said a spokesperson for Josep Borrell, the EU high representative for foreign affairs with whom Floderus worked.

His identity only came to light in September after his family conceded their “silent diplomacy” was not working.

Ingrid Floderus, in Brussels for a campaign event for her brother, urged Sweden to start speaking up loudly to get him released.

In December, Johan Floderus was charged with “very extensive intelligence cooperation with the Zionist occupation regime” and “corruption on Earth”. The family learned last month that prosecutors were seeking the death penalty in the case and believe a sentence could be handed down as early as Sunday.

“We know that Johan is completely innocent and he is being used as a pawn in some political game,” Ingrid said. “We have not had the verdict yet, but they want the death penalty. I would not be surprised if the verdict says death penalty or at least lifetime imprisonment, that is what I am expecting. Obviously, I hope it will be different and they will say: ‘We took the wrong guy, sorry, we’re releasing you.’ But I cannot see that happening.”

She said the family had been rocked by the discovery prosecutors were seeking the death penalty. “It was like the Earth was trembling. All along, I’ve expected a life penalty, but then you hear this – it was really hard, especially for Mum. She could hardly stand. It is very hard for her; Johan is her youngest son.”

Ingrid’s view that Sweden needs to change tack is supported by the experiences of two former prisoners who attended the campaign event in Brussels, the Irish travel consultant Bernard Phelan and the Belgian humanitarian aid worker Olivier Vandecasteele.

“We have to be shouting about Johan, we can’t be quiet. Staying silent is not going to solve the problem,” Bernard Phelan told supporters in Brussels.

Floderus’s family worry about his physical and mental health after almost two years in a cell lit up 24/7, with blankets on the floor as bedding, and after going on hunger strike at least seven times to get calls home.

Ingrid last spoke to her brother before Christmas. She said he was sharing his extra food with his cellmates. They worry about his health and want him, at the very least, to be moved to a public prison where he can take more exercise outdoors.

She said the family had been pushing for a doctor and a full consular or government visit to Tehran, arguing that Iranian officials would respond if they felt they were dealing with people at a high level in the Swedish government.

She is also concerned that the increasing tensions between Iran and the US will imperil her brother. “It is very frightening, the situation right now does not feel very stable.”

Ingrid said it was “not very Swedish” to protest and demonstrate, but the two former prisoners said visible support back home helped keep them “mentally sane” in a situation in which “you are isolated, you cannot exercise, everything is taken away from you”.

“We want the foreign ministry to do what it takes, to use all the tools in the toolbox,” she said.

A spokesperson for the Swedish ministry of foreign affairs said it was “working very intensively” to secure Floderus’s release, which it wanted to take place immediately, and added it had made it “abundantly clearly” there were “no grounds whatsoever to detain Johan Floderus, let alone put him on trial”.

“We will not give up on them until Johan Floderus has been released and returned home,” the spokesperson said, adding it would “complicate the handling” of the case were it to “publicly discuss its actions”.

Borrell’s spokesperson said: “The high representative persistently raises the case at every occasion and contact with the Iranian authorities, since his detention, requesting his liberation. Consular support is provided by the Swedish authorities, with whom we coordinate closely.”

Source » theguardian