28th Feb 2024

EU urges Iran to free Swedish diplomat facing death sentence

  • The 33-year old Swedish diplomat was on holiday in Iran while arrested (Photo: @free_JohnF)
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EU diplomats have redoubled calls for Iran to free their Swedish colleague, after Iran's prosecutor demanded the death penalty for espionage.

"[Johan] Floderus is innocent. There are absolutely no grounds for keeping him in detention," an EU foreign service spokesman told EUobserver on Monday (29 January).

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"The EU continues to call for Johan Floderus to be freed immediately. The high representative persistently raises the case at every occasion and contact with the Iranian authorities," the spokesman added, referring to Josep Borrell, the EU's foreign service boss.

The case is personal because the 33-year old Swedish diplomat was an employee in Borrell's Afghanistan section in Brussels when he was arrested in Tehran airport on 17 April 2022 after visiting a friend who lived in Iran.

And amid the high-level appeals, Floderus' friends and family are also holding an awareness-raising event in Brussels for his sake on Thursday.

The Iranian prosecutor said on Sunday, while closing his trial for alleged espionage for Israel, that "given the important nature and adverse effects of the accused's actions, I demand the maximum penalty," according to Iranian state media.

The EU foreign service said Sweden, "with whom we coordinate closely" and which has an embassy in Tehran, is giving Floderus consular assistance.

The EU doesn't have an embassy in Iran, meaning that Belgium, the current holder of the EU presidency, speaks on behalf of Europe in its place there.

"In general terms, EU officials are not required to travel to, or work in the country [Iran] while performing their duties, with the exception of official trips for specific interactions with the authorities," the EU spokesman said.

"Travel for personal reasons remains under the member states' consular responsibility," he added.

The Swedish foreign ministry didn't comment on Monday.

But Sweden advised its nationals to avoid Iran after Floderus' arrest.

"In late 2023, a man with Swedish and Iranian citizenship was detained for no apparent reason," the Swedish government also said in a statement on 17 January, referring to a second, unnamed Swedish person.

"The government ... reminds Swedes of the ministry for foreign affairs' advice against all travel to Iran," it added.

Middle East experts doubt that Iran would execute Floderus and Swedish media have speculated that his abduction was designed to lead to a prisoner-swap for Hamid Noury, a notorious former Iranian prison official.

Sweden arrested Noury in Stockholm airport in 2019, mirroring the Floderus' incident in Tehran airport, and a Swedish appeals court confirmed Noury's life sentence in December last year "for grave breaches of international humanitarian law and murder".

Meanwhile, the Floderus case comes amid a nadir in EU-Iran relations, due to Iran's support for Palestinian group Hamas in the Gaza war and following the unravelling of an EU-brokered Iran nuclear non-proliferation deal.

Iran is also holding at least six other EU nationals on what their families say are spurious charges, including French and German citizens.

Jailed Iranian Nobel Peace Prize winner 'won't give in'

Earlier in December, Iranian activist Narges Mohammadi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo. As she is imprisoned in Iran, her family accepted the prize in her name. EUobserver talked with her family.


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