Iran Says It Will Execute an Iranian-Swedish Scientist Accused of Espionage
Iran’s judiciary said on Tuesday that it would carry out the execution sentence of an Iranian-Swedish scientist accused of spying for Israel and aiding its assassination of Iranian nuclear scientists.
The announcement of the planned execution of the scientist, Ahmadreza Djalali, who has denied all the charges against him, coincided with the conclusion of a landmark court case in Sweden where, for the first time outside of Iran, a former Iranian official was tried for crimes against humanity.
Swedish prosecutors have asked for a life sentence for the official, Hamid Nouri, who was 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 on Tuesday that it would uphold earlier sentences against three Iranians, one of them a senior diplomat, convicted of plotting a terrorist 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 foreign nationals are detained on trumped-up charges of espionage and then leveraged politically to release frozen funds, or to be exchanged for Iranian citizens incarcerated in other countries.
“The Iranian judiciary by announcing its intention to execute Djalali has made it clear that he is a hostage and his life is being used to influence the judicial decision in Sweden,” said Hadi Ghaemi, the director of the Center for Human Rights in Iran, an independent advocacy group based in New York City.
Iran’s judiciary spokesman, Zabihollah Khodaian, denied that the cases of Mr. Djalali and Mr. 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 issued,” Mr. Khodaian told the Iranian news agency ISNA.
Mr. Djalali, a 50-year-old physician and lecturer at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, migrated to Sweden in 2009 to study for a doctoral degree, according to his family. He had traveled to Iran in 2016 on an invitation from a university to participate in an academic workshop when he was arrested.
Last week Iranian news media, citing anonymous sources, reported that Mr. Djalali would be executed by the end of May.
His wife, Vida Mehrannia, said in a phone interview from Sweden on Tuesday that the ordeal had shattered the family. She said she woke up every day in fear of Iran executing her husband and of what she would tell their daughter, 19, and son, 10. They have not spoken to Mr. Djalali since the news that his execution was imminent, she said.
Ms. Mehrannia said her husband had never been to Israel and had no contact with governments of countries that Iran deems hostile.
“I never expected them to treat us as pawns in their political games,” Ms. Mehrannia said, crying throughout the interview. “I feel broken. Sweden keeps telling me it 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 escalate 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 as he was leaving the country with a group of other tourists. In late April, Sweden had warned its citizens against traveling to Iran.
The foreign ministers of the two countries spoke on the phone last Wednesday, according to Iran’s foreign ministry. The outcome of that conversation and the prospect of a diplomatic breakthrough were unclear.
On May 4, Sweden’s foreign minister, Ann Linde, tweeted, “Extremely worrying media reports today that Iran may enforce the death penalty on Swedish citizen Ahmadreza Djalali.” She said 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.