Iranian-Swedish Disaster Medicine Expert Held in Iran Jail for Nine Months, on Hunger Strike Since Dec. 25
Case Continues Pattern of Dual Nationals Snatched and Held Without Due Process
January 12, 2017—In yet another case of a foreign resident or dual national from a western country grabbed and imprisoned in Iran without access to a lawyer or any other aspect of due process, Iranian-born Swedish resident and expert in emergency disaster medicine Ahmadreza Jalali has been held in Evin Prison for almost nine months. He is now approaching three weeks on hunger strike in protest against his detainment.
Jalali was arrested by agents of Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence on April 24, 2016 while visiting the Iranian capital, after being officially invited by Tehran University.
The Campaign for Human Rights in Iran calls for the immediate release of Ahmadreza Jalali, as well as the other foreign residents and dual nationals held in Iran in a growing string of imprisonments lacking any legal legitimacy.
“With each individual grabbed and locked up, without even the pretense of due process, the Iranian Judiciary’s disregard for the rule of law becomes more blatant” said Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the Campaign.
“The Rouhani administration is demonstrating its impotence and irrelevance if it does not speak out forcefully against these imprisonments, and the international community should publicly condemn what can only be described as hostage taking,” Ghaemi added.
“Ahmadreza had always traveled to Iran by invitation of state organizations, including the Red Crescent, and never experienced any problems before,” his wife Vida Mehran-nia told the Campaign, adding that her husband has been charged with “collaborating with enemy states.”
Mehran-nia described a pattern of a fearful family at first remaining silent, and a denial of access to counsel that has typified many of the cases of the detained dual nationals and foreign residents over the last few years.
“We kept silent after his arrest because we thought there had been some mistake or misunderstanding, and that he would be acquitted and released,” she said. “For seven months, he was denied access to a lawyer. After he was transferred to a public ward, he was permitted legal counsel, but his lawyer told us he cannot talk about the case because it involves national security.”
Jalali was held in solitary confinement at Evin Prison’s Ward 209, which is controlled by the Ministry of Intelligence, and interrogated for seven months before being transferred to the public Ward 7, according to Mehran-nia.
Mehran-nia told the Campaign that her husband began his hunger strike on December 25, the day his interrogators told him he would receive the maximum punishment.
“Previously, they had told him that his case had been reviewed and his trial would start soon. But they put him under so much psychological pressure that he decided to start a hunger strike on the same day,” she added. “He says that if they are going to execute him, he prefers to die under hunger strike.”
A non-practicing general medicine physician with a post-doctorate degree in emergency and disaster medicine, Jalali lives in Sweden with his wife and two children.
Since 2014 in particular, despite President Rouhani’s encouragement of expatriate citizens to return to Iran, dual citizens or individuals with foreign residency status have been arrested with increasing frequency by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards or agents from Iran’s Intelligence Ministry, and charged with “collaborating with enemy states,” an indirect reference to the U.S. and other Western governments, and other unsubstantiated national security-related charges.
Iranian-British dual citizen Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, sentenced to five years in prison in September 2016, has been held since April 2016; Iranian-American businessman Siamak Namazi has been held since October 15, 2015 and his father, 80-year-old Bagher Namazi, since February 2016—both have been sentenced to ten years in prison; Kamal Foroughi, a 77-year-old Iranian-British man has been held since May 2011; Iranian-American Robin (Reza) Shahini has been held since July 2016; and Nizar Zakka, a Lebanese-born U.S. permanent resident, held since September 2015, was sentenced to ten years.
*This article was revised to specify that Ahmadreza Jalali is an expert in emergency medicine, on Jan. 12, 2017 at 5:33 p.m.