Swedish citizen faces Iran execution ‘shortly’, warns UN

The United Nations warned Saturday that an Iranian-Swedish citizen is facing imminent execution in Iran, after a Swedish court upheld the conviction of a former Iranian prison official.

The UN rights office said Saturday that a “moratorium on all death sentences is urgently required” in Iran. (File Photo / REUTERS)

“Disturbing news that Dr. Ahmadreza Djalali could be shortly executed on charges of ‘enmity against God’,” the UN human rights office said on X.

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Djalali was sentenced to death in 2017 on espionage charges that have been denounced as baseless by Stockholm and his supporters.

Before his arrest in Iran in April 2016, Djalali was a visiting professor in disaster medicine at Vrije Universiteit Brussel, a Belgian research university.

The UN rights office said his execution could take place soon “despite failures to respect fair trial and due process standards”.

“Iran must stop this execution.”

The comments came amid fears that a Swedish appeals court decision confirming the conviction of former Iranian prison official Hamid Noury could jeopardise the fate of several Swedish prisoners in Iran.

‘Grave risk’

Amnesty International warned Friday that Djalali in particular was “at grave risk of imminent retaliatory execution” after the court this week confirmed Noury’s life sentence for crimes committed during a 1988 purge of dissidents.

Noury, 62, was convicted of “grave breaches of international humanitarian law and murder” over his role in a purge that saw at least 5,000 prisoners killed across Iran.

The crackdown is widely considered retaliation for attacks carried out by the People’s Mujahedin of Iran (MEK), an exiled opposition group, at the end of the Iran-Iraq war.

Sweden tried Noury under its principle of universal jurisdiction, which allows it to prosecute a case regardless of where the offences took place.

Since the appeals verdict, “mounting evidence indicates that Iranian authorities are threatening to carry out Ahmadreza Djalali’s execution in retaliation for their unmet demands to pervert the course of justice in Sweden”, said Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa.

“The cruel toying with Ahmadreza Djalali’s life immediately after a Swedish court of appeals upheld (Noury’s) conviction and life sentence… heightens concerns that Iranian officials are holding Ahmadreza Djalali hostage to compel Sweden into a prisoner swap,” she said in a statement.

‘Execution spree’

Iran has previously used detained foreigners as bargaining chips to secure the release of its citizens abroad, and Swedish media reports have also speculated about the possibility of a prisoner swap.

Djalali is not the only Swede being held in Iran.

EU diplomat Johan Floderus, 33, was arrested in Iran in April 2022 — as Noury’s lower court trial was underway in Stockholm — and has now been held for more than 600 days.

Floderus’s trial opened in Iran this month, with Tehran accusing him of conspiring with Israel and of “corruption on Earth” — one of Iran’s most serious offences, which carries a maximum penalty of death.

The UN rights office said Saturday that a “moratorium on all death sentences is urgently required” in Iran.

According to rights groups, Iran executes more people per year than any other nation except China.

In a November report, the Norway-based Iran Human Rights group said the country had executed more than 600 people so far this year, the highest figure in eight years.

Amnesty said Friday that Iran had “recently embarked on another alarming executions spree, executing at least 115 people in November 2023 alone”.

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