Sweden’s latest attempt to secure the release of the Swedish-Iranian academic Ahmadreza Djalali was rebuffed by Iran this week, heightening concern that his execution could be imminent and underscoring the strained diplomatic relations between European capitals and Tehran.
Djalali was sentenced to death by an Iranian court in 2017 on charges of spying for Israel. The academic, a former researcher at the medical university Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, denies the charges.
Djalali has been held in Evin prison outside Tehran for much of the past four years. Human rights groups condemned his conviction as unfair as they said it was based on a confession extracted under torture.
On Tuesday, his wife, Vida Mehrannia, said her husband had called her and said he had been moved to another prison to await his execution in solitary confinement.
“He said that he probably would not be able to ring me again,” she told Swedish news agency TT.
Mehrannia said she had informed the Swedish foreign ministry about the call and, later on Tuesday, Foreign Minister Ann Linde contacted her Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif to protest.
“Sweden is working to stop the death sentence against Djalali from being carried out,” Linde tweeted.
Iranian authorities said Sweden’s view was based on false information and condemned Linde’s attempt to intervene.
“The judiciary of the Islamic Republic of Iran is independent, and any interference in the issuing or enforcement of judicial verdicts is rejected and unacceptable,” a spokesman for the foreign ministry said in a statement.
The Belgian government earlier this week backed Sweden’s call not to execute Djalali, who is also a guest lecturer at Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB). “Our country is against the death penalty and calls upon Iran not to execute Mr. Djalali,” Belgian Foreign Minister Sophie Wilmès said in a tweet, adding that the message had also been conveyed “by phone call to the Iranian ambassador in Belgium.”
The escalation leaves Djalali’s plight among the most pressing of a number of similar cases involving the disputed detention of Western citizens in Iran.
British-Iranian charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who was sentenced to five years in jail in 2016, remains under a form of house arrest in Iran, and a German-Iranian women’s rights activist, Nahid Taghavi, was also recently detained.
On Wednesday, Kylie Moore-Gilbert, an Australian-British academic held on espionage charges, was released in what appeared to be a prisoner exchange for three Iranians.
How to resolve such detentions is just a part of a broader diplomatic tangle facing European leaders as they consider their wider approach to Iran.
Tehran also stands accused of plotting attacks against opponents in Denmark and France, with a trial in the latter case set to begin in the Belgian city of Antwerp on Friday. In that case, a Vienna-based Iranian diplomat, an Iranian-Belgian couple and a fourth alleged accomplice stand accused of planning to attack a convention of thousands of opponents of the Iranian regime outside Paris in 2018.
Simmering in the background is the Iran nuclear deal, which U.S. President Donald Trump walked away from, and which European leaders and U.S. President-elect Joe Biden are looking to reboot.
In Stockholm this week, focus remained on trying to block what could be the imminent execution of Djalali, with human rights group Amnesty International and Karolinska Institutet launching a fresh round of campaigning to save his life.
“We must act forcefully and jointly to make sure that the death sentence against Ahmadreza Djalali is not implemented,” said KI President Ole Petter Ottersen in a statement. “There are many of us who are engaged in his case and I urge everyone to do what they can to support him now.”
In Brussels, VUB students staged a protest in front of the Iranian embassy on Friday, writing the message #SaveAhmadreza on a strip of grass in front of the Iranian embassy with flowers.
In a video posted by the Flemish television program Terzake, Djalali’s wife Mehrannia said she hoped Belgium and Sweden would “not just condemn this sentence. We need [to] release him because he sacrificed for more than four years.”
Source » politico