An Iranian-born scientist, who is now a resident of Sweden, was arrested last year in Iran and may be facing the death penalty.
European governments are protesting Iran’s treatment of Ahmadreza Djalali, a physician who specializes in disaster medicine. An Italian newspaper quoted his wife as saying that he was arrested in April, while driving to his family’s house after arriving in Iran for a conference.
Vida Mehrannia, his wife, lives in Stockholm with their two children, told the newspaper, Corriere della Sera, that her husband had been charged with the “death penalty for collaboration with enemy states.”
Dr. Djalali is detained at Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison since his arrest on April 25 and he had been threatened with the death penalty, Amnesty International ,said in a statement last week. The statement said further, that on January 31, he was taken to a branch of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran without a lawyer present, and told that he was accused of espionage.
His defense lawyer told Amnesty that the Iranian authorities had not yet issued an indictment nor scheduled a trial.
According to Amnesty, Dr. Djalali has been on a hunger strike since December 26, after he refused to sign a confession. Several Iranian political prisoners are currently refusing to eat in protest of their sentences.
Amnesty said that Dr. Djalali had been “invited to attend workshops about disaster medicine at universities in Tehran and Shiraz, when he was arrested without a warrant by Ministry of Intelligence officials.” Additionally, at Evin Prison, “he was subjected to intense interrogations and was forced under great emotional and psychological pressure to sign statements.” He was not allowed visits from his lawyers.
In a statement from the Italian government, it said that it had “activated its channels of communication with the Iranian authorities to highlight its extreme concern.”
The Swedish Embassy in Tehran has asked for “consular access” to the researcher. However, when the newspaper Expressen asked Prime Minister Stefan Lofven about the matter, he said that the embassy had not received word about Dr. Djalali, and pledged to bring up the issue with the Iranian government. Mr. Lofven is beginning to face criticism saying that the Swedish government should tie Dr. Djalali’s case to discussions over sanctions.
United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), the organization founded by American diplomat Richard C. Holbrooke, took a full-page ad in the newspaper Dagens Nyheter, demanding the cessation of business contacts between Swedish companies and the Iranian government.
Belgium’s foreign minister has also expressed concern over Dr. Djalali’s case.
Dr. Djalali was teaching at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, a university in Belgium where, Caroline Pauwels, rector of the university said he had been doing important research. “This scientist has been convicted without a public trial, and now faces the death penalty,” she told the Belgian newspaper De Morgen.
Dr. Djalali’s wife told his colleagues that he had been involved in a car accident and was hospitalized, so they didn’t learn of his arrest until months after it happened. His wife told the Italian newspaper La Stampa that she had decided to remain silent, hoping he would be freed.
Iranian law does not recognize dual citizenship, so Dr. Djalali is not eligible for consular assistance from the Swedish Embassy in Tehran. Iranian judicial authorities have remained silent.
Iran has imprisoned dozens of foreign citizens, among them six Americans and a Briton. Most of them are accused of spying.
Zahra Bahrami, a Dutch-Iranian citizen, was hanged by Iran’s judiciary in 2011, after being convicted of smuggling drugs.
Ironically, Dr. Djalali’s arrest comes at a time when the Iranian government seeks to restore business ties with the European Union.