Year-Long Legal Limbo of Swedish Resident Imprisoned in Iran Continues After Judge Calls in Sick
Swedish Embassy Staffers Waited in Courthouse
The long-awaited trial of Iranian-born Swedish permanent resident Ahmadreza Djalali, imprisoned in Iran on unspecified charges since April 2016, was cancelled while Djalali and two staffers of the Swedish embassy in Tehran were waiting in the courthouse.
“Ahmadreza was taken to the courthouse in the morning, but he was told Judge Salavati was sick and had not come to work,” Djalali’s wife, Vida Mehran-nia, told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) on August 2, 2017. “That day two staff members from the Swedish Embassy were also in the courthouse to observe the trial.”
“Ahmadreza is not in a good mental state,” said Mehran-nia. “He has been in limbo in prison for more than a year. And now his trial has not taken place because the judge was sick. Being in another country and watching this situation drag on is very hard for his family.”
Judge Abolqasem Salavati was scheduled to preside over the trial at Branch 15 of the Tehran Revolutionary Court on August 2.
Djalali is now waiting for a new court date.
On July 5, Djalali and several political prisoners were moved from their wards shortly before the Swedish and dozens of other foreign ambassadors based in Tehran were taken on a state-controlled tour of Evin Prison.
“That same morning, security agents took Ahmadreza and several other inmates to Ward 209 and returned them to Ward 4 in the evening,” a source close to Djalali’s family told CHRI at the time. “The agents themselves admitted that they were hiding them from the ambassadors who were coming to visit the prison.”
When the Djalali family contacted the Swedish Embassy in Tehran, “they were told that the embassy was following up on Ahmadreza’s case at the highest levels, but unfortunately, they still do not have precise information about his situation,” said the source, who requested anonymity.
Djalali, an expert in emergency disaster medicine who lives as a permanent resident in Sweden with his wife and two children, has been in detention in Evin Prison since his arrest by Iran’s Intelligence Ministry on April 24, 2016. He was in the country on invite by Tehran University and had previously cooperated with the country’s Red Crescent Society.
The charges against Djalali have not been publicly disclosed, but security agents accused him of “collaborating with enemy states” while they were interrogating him.
Mehran-nia told CHRI that her husband now has access to legal counsel for the first time since his arrest more than one year ago, but declined to give the lawyer’s name. Judge Salavati had rejected Djalali’s three previous requests to be represented by a lawyer.
Djalali protested the denial of legal counsel and threats that he would be sentenced to death before his trial by going on a three-week hunger strike in February 2017.
The judiciary’s ongoing imprisonment of dual nationals contradicts Rouhani’s repeated calls for expatriates to return to Iran. The growing number of arrests also reflects hardliners’ efforts to prevent the engagement with the West that the Rouhani administration has sought to encourage.
Iranian-born Canadian resident Saaed Malekpour, serving a life sentence, has been held since October 2008; Iranian-American businessman Siamak Namazi, held since October 2015 and his father, 80-year-old Bagher Namazi, held since February 2016, have both been sentenced to ten years in prison; 77-year-old Iranian-British dual citizen Kamal Foroughi, sentenced to seven years in prison, has been held since 2015; Iranian-British dual citizen Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, sentenced to five years in prison in September 2016, has been held since April 2016; British-Iranian citizen Roya Saberi Nobakht, held since October 2013, has been sentenced to seven years in prison; Nizar Zakka, a Lebanese-born US permanent resident held since September 2015, has been sentenced to 10 years in prison; and Iranian-Austrian dual citizen Kamran Ghaderi, held since January 2016, has been sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Iranian-American Karan Vafadari, held since July 2016, has not yet been sentenced.
*This article was modified on August 7, 2017 to reflect the correct spelling of Kamal Foroughi’s name and his age.