Iranian-Swedish academic will likely be executed by Iran on Wednesday, wife says

Ahmadreza Djalali, accused of spying for Israel, ‘at imminent risk of execution,’ rights group says, as his spouse pleads for international intervention

Ahmadreza Djalali, left, and his family. (Screen capture via YouTube/Amnesty International)
Ahmadreza Djalali, left, and his family. (Screen capture via YouTube/Amnesty International)

Imprisoned Iranian-Swedish academic Ahmadreza Djalali, accused by Iran of spying for Israel, could be executed in Iran as soon as Wednesday, rights groups and his wife said.

Djalali, formerly based in Stockholm where he worked at the Karolinska Institute, a medical university, was arrested during a visit to Iran in April 2016 and sentenced to death in October 2017.

He was found guilty of passing information about two Iranian nuclear scientists to Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency that had led to their assassinations. Djalali has claimed he is being punished for refusing to spy for Iran while working in Europe.

He was granted Swedish citizenship in February 2018, while in prison.

The advocacy group Iran Human Rights said on Tuesday that Djalali was “at imminent risk of execution and only a strong and urgent reaction from the international community can save his life.”

His wife, Vida Mehrannia, told the group that he had been transferred to the Rajai Shahr Prison on Tuesday. Iran usually carries out executions at the facility, and usually on Wednesdays.

Mehrannia told The Guardian on Tuesday, “I spoke to him a week ago and what he said would happen is taking place. He will be executed at some point tomorrow, unless someone intervenes.

“I am not a political person, but all I can ask is that countries that have influence, maybe Austria and the US, will ask Iran to open his door and cancel his sentence,” she said.

The UN special rapporteur on extra-judicial executions, Agnes Callamard, warned in a statement on Tuesday that Djalali’s execution was imminent.

“The ‘judge’ overseeing the arbitrary killing reportedly said the family would be granted a last visit before his execution. Unconscionable. And unlawful. Human lives, just pawns in international politics, tit for tat, no sight in end,” Callamard said.

Last week Iran warned against “all interference” by Sweden in the case after Stockholm called to halt the execution.

“The judicial power of the Islamic Republic is independent — all interference in the issuance or carrying out of judicial decisions is rejected as unacceptable,” Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said in a statement.

Sweden’s Foreign Minister Anne Linde had taken to Twitter after being in contact with her Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif, in the wake of reports that Tehran was preparing to carry out the execution of Djalali, a specialist in emergency medicine.

“Sweden denounces the death penalty and is working to not have the sentence against Djalali carried out,” Linde wrote.

Khatibzadeh said that the information being used by the Swedish authorities to inform their position on Djalali’s circumstances “was incomplete and false.” He did not elaborate.

Djalali’s lawyers also claimed they were blocked from presenting submissions ahead of the Supreme Court hearing.

Djalali’s death sentence has been widely condemned by rights groups including Amnesty International and by UN rights experts.

Last week, Iran released Australian-British academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert after she spent 804 days behind bars for alleged espionage. She was released in a swap for three Iranians linked to a botched plot to kill Israeli officials in Bangkok.

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