Iran’s judiciary said on Tuesday it would carry out the execution sentence of a Swedish-Iranian scientist accused of spying for Israel and helping to assassinate Iranian nuclear scientists.
The announcement of the planned execution of scientist Ahmadreza Djalali, who has denied all charges against him, coincided with the conclusion of a landmark trial in Sweden in which, for the first time outside Iran, a former Iranian official was tried for crimes against The humanity.
Swedish prosecutors have asked for life in prison for civil servant Hamid Nouri, arrested in 2019 on a trip to Sweden, for his role in the mass execution of 5,000 dissidents in the 1980s. He has denied the charges. A verdict is expected in July, according to Sweden’s judiciary.
In a separate case, Belgium’s judiciary announced Tuesday that it would uphold earlier sentences against three Iranians, one of them a senior diplomat, convicted of planning a terror attack in Paris against an Iranian opposition group.
Human rights groups condemned the Islamic Republic for what they called its pattern of hostage diplomacy, in which dual nationals or foreigners are detained on trumped-up charges of espionage and then politically exploited to release frozen funds or to exchange them for imprisoned Iranian citizens. in other countries.
“By announcing their intention to execute Djalali, the Iranian judiciary has made it clear that he is a hostage and that his life is being used to influence the judicial decision in Sweden,” said Hadi Ghaemi, director of the Center for Human Rights in Iran. . an independent advocacy group based in New York City.
Iran’s judicial spokesman, Zabihollah Khodaian, denied that the cases of Djalali and Nouri were related or that Iran was seeking a swap, according to Iranian media.
“There is no discussion of an exchange and the judiciary will act based on the verdict delivered,” Khodaian told the Iranian ISNA news agency.
Mr. Djalali, a 50-year-old doctor and professor at Stockholm’s Karolinska Institute, immigrated to Sweden in 2009 to study for a doctorate, according to his family. He had traveled to Iran in 2016 at the invitation of a university to participate in an academic workshop when he was arrested.
Last week, the Iranian media, citing anonymous sources, reported that Mr. Djalali would be executed at the end of May.
His wife, Vida Mehrannia, said in a telephone interview from Sweden on Tuesday that the ordeal had shattered the family. She said she woke up every day scared that Iran would execute her husband and what he would say to their 19-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son. They have not spoken to Djalali since they learned his execution was imminent. , said.
Ms. Mehrannia said that her husband had never been to Israel and had no contact with the governments of countries that Iran considers hostile.
“I never expected that they would treat us like pawns in their political games,” Mehrannia said, crying during the interview. “I feel broken. Sweden keeps telling me that they will resolve this diplomatically, but nothing has happened yet.”
The cases in Sweden and Iran have created tensions between the two countries. If Iran carries out the execution of a Swedish citizen, it will heighten tensions with Europe at a time when Iran is still negotiating a nuclear deal with the West.
The Swedish Foreign Ministry said on Friday that a 30-year-old Swedish tourist was arrested in Iran while leaving the country with a group of other tourists. In late April, Sweden had warned its citizens not to travel to Iran.
The foreign ministers of the two countries spoke by phone last Wednesday, according to the Iranian Foreign Ministry. The outcome of that conversation and the prospect of a diplomatic breakthrough were unclear.
On May 4, Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde tweeted: “The media is reporting today that it is extremely worrying that Iran may impose the death penalty on Swedish citizen Ahmadreza Djalali.” She said that Sweden condemned the death penalty sentence against Mr. Djalali and demanded that Iran release him.
Ms. Linde did not appear to have commented publicly on Tuesday’s official announcement by Iran’s judiciary.