Iranian-born Swedish resident Ahmadreza Jalali, who has been detained in Tehran without due process since April 2016, was threatened with the death penalty on the first day of his trial by Judge Abolqasem Salavati of Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court.
“Ahmadreza made a short phone call to the family on Tuesday, January 31 , and said that on the previous day Judge Salavati had read the indictment in the Revolutionary Court and told him ‘Your sentence is death and it won’t change at the end of the trial… Eat your food,’” Jalali’s wife, Vida Mehran-nia, told the Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.
Jalali, a 46-year-old expert in emergency disaster medicine, has been on a wet hunger strike since December 25, 2016, the day his interrogators told him he would receive the maximum punishment, which is the death penalty.
Mehran-nia also told the Campaign that Jalali was moved from one of Evin Prison’s public wards to Ward 209, a section of the prison that is controlled by the Intelligence Ministry.
“Judge Salavati rejected Jalali’s lawyer and demanded that the lawyer be changed or a public defender would be imposed by the court,” she said. “Jalali said he would not change his lawyer and that if his lawyer was not permitted to attend the trial, he would not show up in court either.”
Salavati is infamous for imposing harsh sentences in politicized cases.
In interviews with the Campaign, several lawyers have criticized Salavati for ignoring arguments by the defense in court and bowing to the demands of the prosecution, especially in cases in which the arresting authority was the Revolutionary Guards’ Intelligence Organization.
Salavati has presided over many cases against dual nationals, including Amir Hekmati, Saeed Abedini, and Jason Rezaian, who were released in January 2016 in a prisoner swap deal with the US. He is also the presiding judge in current cases against dual nationals including against Iranian-American Siamak Namazi, his father Bagher Namazi, and British-Iranian Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.
In all these cases, the victims have been held without due process and under unclear or unannounced charges, and denied full and proper legal representation.
The Intelligence Ministry arrested Jalali on April 24, 2016 while he was visiting Tehran after being officially invited by Tehran University. The authorities have not disclosed any details on the charges, if any, have been laid against him.
Jalali, who lived in Sweden with his wife and two children prior to his arrest, is a non-practicing general medicine physician and has a post-doctorate degree in emergency and disaster medicine and computer science applied to medical practice from the University of Eastern Piedmont, Novara, Italy.
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-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, held since October 15, 2015 and his father, 80-year-old Bagher Namazi, held since February 2016, have both been sentenced to ten years in prison; Iranian-American Robin (Reza) Shahini, held since July 2016; has been sentenced to 18 years in prison, British-Iranian Roya Saberi Nobakht, held since October 2013, has been sentenced to seven years; 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 been sentenced yet.