Swedish national has been held by Iran since last year, Stockholm confirms

Man identified as Johan Floderus, a Swede working for the EU’s diplomatic corps whom Tehran seemingly accused of spying for Israel

Illustrative: Iranian police in Tehran, Iran, Sunday, Aug. 23, 2015. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)
Illustrative: Iranian police in Tehran, Iran, Sunday, Aug. 23, 2015. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

STOCKHOLM (AP) — Sweden on Monday said a Swedish citizen in his 30s was arbitrarily detained in Iran last year and called for his immediate release.

The Swedish government didn’t identify the man, but the New York Times said he was Johan Floderus, a Swede who had been working for the European Union’s diplomatic corps.

Citing anonymous sources, the newspaper said Floderus was arrested on a private trip to Iran for possible use by Tehran as a bargaining chip in efforts to seek concessions from the West.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Nasser Kanaani, told the semi-official Fars news agency that he had no information on the case.

The Swedish Foreign Ministry said the man was detained in Iran in April last year but declined to give details.

“The Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the Embassy of Sweden in Tehran are working very intensively on the case and are maintaining close contact with the EU,” the ministry said in an email.

“The Swedish citizen has been arbitrarily deprived of his freedom and should therefore be released immediately. This has been conveyed to the Iranian authorities,” the ministry said. “To avoid complicating our efforts and for reasons of secrecy, we cannot go into any more detail at present.”

The New York Times said Floderus had held several positions in the European Union’s civil service, including in the European External Action Service.

In Brussels, European Commission spokesman Peter Stano declined to confirm the name or other details but said the commission was aware of the case and was working closely on it with Sweden.

“This case also needs to be seen in a context of the worrying trend of Iran arbitrarily detaining EU nationals, or EU dual-Iranian nationals, for political reasons,” Stano said.

On July 30 last year, Iran’s intelligence ministry said its agents had arrested a Swedish citizen for spying. It didn’t not identify the man but said he was arrested before leaving Iran after several visits to the country.

The Iranians said the man had been in touch with several European and non-European suspects in Iran, and had visited Israel, Iran’s foe, before visiting Iran. The statement accused Sweden of proxy-spying for Israel.

Relations between Stockholm and Tehran have been tense in recent years.

Iran recalled its ambassador from Sweden last year after a Swedish court convicted Iranian citizen Hamid Noury of war crimes and murder during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s and sentenced him to life in prison.

The Stockholm District Court said that Noury took part in severe atrocities in July-August 1988 while working as an assistant to the deputy prosecutor at the Gohardasht prison outside the Iranian city of Karaj. Noury, who was arrested in November 2019 when he arrived in Stockholm on a tourist trip, has appealed the ruling.

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