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KI’s President: “Djalali is a victim of a cynical game played by the Iranian government”

Karolinska Institutet’s president, Annika Östman Wernerson, and vice-president, Martin Bergö, have written an open letter to Sweden’s minister for foreign affairs and minister for education, calling on them to use all means available to increase the pressure on Iran to free Dr Djalali and other Swedish citizens.

Eight years ago, on 25 April, Ahmadreza Djalali was arrested by the Iranian police and after a trial lacking everything that could reasonably be asked of fair and lawful proceedings, he was sentenced to death the following year.

A Swedish citizen and doctor of disaster medicine

Ahmadreza Djalali is a Swedish citizen and doctor of disaster medicine at Karolinska Institutet. Karolinska Institutet (KI) has a long-standing relationship with and commitment to Djalali, who earned his PhD at KI in 2012 after having enrolled at KI as a doctoral student four years earlier. He was subsequently affiliated with KI until 2016 as well as with universities in Belgium, Italy and elsewhere within his field of expertise: disaster medicine. In the spring of 2016, he was invited to Iran for a series of conferences and lectures.

Eight years ago, he was arrested by the Iranian police and after a trial lacking everything that could reasonably be asked of fair and lawful proceedings, he was sentenced to death the following year. The process was one of fabricated evidence, concocted accusations, confessions extracted under intimidation and torture, a secret hearing and an absence of legal support, describes KI.

All indications are that Ahmadreza is being held hostage by the Iranian authorities, who are threatening to execute his death sentence as a way to get Sweden to hand over the convicted former Iranian official Hamid Noury, states Amnesty International.

Under the constant threat of execution

For these past eight years, Djalali has had to live under the constant threat of execution. His health has deteriorated significantly due to the combination of dreadful living conditions and a lack of decent healthcare. Contact with his family in Sweden has been heavily restricted, as have any opportunities to talk to a lawyer or other support persons.

The international reaction to Iran’s treatment of Djalali has been considerable, the remonstrations having involved a great many academic colleagues and Nobel laureates the world over, strongly worded statements from the EU parliament, activities, letters of protest, petitions from national and international organisations, individual political engagement and much more besides, describes KI.

Shed a brighter light on the cynical game that Iran is playing

During all this time, the Swedish government has been clear in condemning the sentence against and treatment of Djalali as wholly unacceptable, writes Östman Wernerson and Bergö. “However, despite all the opinions expressed and demonstrations held, nothing has happened. Our highly valued colleague still remains incarcerated under appalling conditions with a death threat hanging over him,” they write. “We have noted recently that the unlawful arrest and imprisonment of Johan Floderus has drawn considerable attention and essentially welcome it, since it will hopefully also benefit Ahmadreza Djalali – and even shed a brighter light on the cynical game that Iran is playing in which it uses innocent human lives to gain an advantage on the global arena.”

“Meanwhile, as time passes, those of us who are in regular contact with Ahmadreza Djalali’s family are growing ever more frustrated with the lack of movement in his case. We therefore appeal to the Swedish government to use every means at its disposal to intensify the pressure on Iran and unequivocally demand that all Swedish citizens who have been innocently imprisoned in the country to be immediately returned to Sweden,” the authors conclude.

Photo of KI building: Amina Manzoor. Photo of Ahmadreza Djalali: Amnesty

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