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Tuesday 14 February 2017
European governments are protesting Iran’s treatment of an Iranian-born scientist, now a resident of Sweden, who was arrested last year in Iran and who could now face the death penalty.
The scientist, Ahmadreza Djalali, a physician who specializes in disaster medicine and has taught at universities in Belgium, Italy and Sweden, was arrested in April while driving to his family’s house after arriving in Iran for a conference, an Italian newspaper has quoted his wife as saying.
The wife, Vida Mehrannia, who lives in Stockholm with the couple’s two children, told the newspaper, Corriere della Sera, that her husband had been charged with the “death penalty for collaboration with enemy states.”
Amnesty International said in a statement last week that Dr. Djalali had been detained at Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison since his arrest on April 25 and that he had been threatened with the death penalty.
The statement said that he was taken on Jan. 31, without a lawyer present, to a branch of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran and told that he was accused of espionage. His defense lawyer told Amnesty that the authorities had not yet issued an indictment or scheduled a trial.
Amnesty also said Dr. Djalali had been on a hunger strike since Dec. 26, after he refused to sign a confession. Several Iranian prisoners who face political charges are currently refusing to eat in protest of their sentences.
Dr. Djalali, 45, 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,” Amnesty said. At Evin Prison, “he was subjected to intense interrogations and was forced under great emotional and psychological pressure to sign statements,” and he was not allowed visits from his lawyers.
The Italian government said in a statement 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, but when the newspaper Expressen asked Prime Minister Stefan Lofven about the matter, he said that the embassy still had not gotten word about Dr. Djalali and pledged to bring up the issue with the Iranian government.
Mr. Lofven has begun facing pressure from critics who say the Swedish government should tie Dr. Djalali’s case to discussions over sanctions.
United Against Nuclear Iran, an organization founded by the American diplomat Richard C. Holbrooke, who died in 2010, took out 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 his worries over Dr. Djalali’s case.
Caroline Pauwels, rector of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, a university in Belgium where Dr. Djalali was teaching, 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 colleagues learned of his arrest months after it happened because his wife had decided to remain silent, hoping he would be freed. Instead, she told them he had been involved in a car accident and was hospitalized, she told the Italian newspaper La Stampa.
Iranian judicial authorities have remained silent. Iranian law does not recognize dual citizenship, and Dr. Djalali is not eligible for consular assistance from the Swedish Embassy in Tehran. Currently, Iran has imprisoned dozens of foreign citizens, among them six Americans and a Briton. Most of them are accused of spying.
In 2011, Iran’s judiciary hanged a Dutch-Iranian citizen, Zahra Bahrami, after she had been convicted of smuggling drugs. Dr. Djalali’s arrest comes at a time when the Iranian government is seeking to restore business ties with the European Union.