Death Sentence Against Swedish Resident Ahmadreza Djalali Under Review
Branch 33 of the Supreme Court in Iran is reviewing the death sentence issued to Ahmadreza Djalali, an Iranian-born academic and Swedish resident accused of “espionage” charges. The judge has asked a deputy prosecutor to give his opinion in February 2018.
“My client’s case is currently being studied by a deputy prosecutor in Tehran and his assistant in charge of carrying out court rulings,” a member of Djalali’s legal defense team, Zeinab Taheri, told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) on January 19, 2018. “Both have raised objections to the case similar to Ahmadreza’s own objections.”
“Considering the problems with this case and the letters we have written to parliamentarians, we are hoping the death sentence will be reversed,” added the attorney.
Taheri also told CHRI that according to the medical staff of Evin Prison, Djalali needs medical attention from a physician based outside the prison to be checked for a “possible tumor,” but the judge presiding over Djalali’s case, Abolqasem Salavati, has repeatedly rejected Djalali’s requests for outside care.
Continued Taheri: “Unfortunately, Ahmadreza is not well. He is eating but getting thinner every day. He’s a doctor himself and he says it’s possible that a tumor has developed in his digestive tract. Evin Prison’s medical doctor checked him and said he needs to undergo tests outside prison. But Judge Salavati has opposed allowing him to receive treatment outside prison.”
Political prisoners in Iran are singled out for harsh treatment, which often includes denial of medical care. The threat of withheld medical care has also been used as an intimidation tool against prisoners who have challenged the authorities or filed complaints.
Djalali, who lives in Sweden with his wife and two children, has consistently denied collaborating with any intelligence agency and has stated that he was imprisoned in Iran for refusing to spy for Iran’s security establishment.
In a letter from Evin Prison addressing Judiciary Chief Sadegh Larijani, Djalali said the indictment against him “is full of distortions and misinterpretations.”
The letter was written in mid-January 2018, according to Djalali’s wife, Vida Mehran-Nia, who shared it with CHRI on January 19.
“During interrogation, I never, under any circumstances, admitted or agreed to cooperate or spy for the Mossad or any other agency and no evidence has been presented to prove such a charge at any stage of the prosecution,” wrote Djalali.
Continued Djalali: “I have always explained with proof and evidence that agents who introduced themselves as members of a security organization… came to me on five or six occasions, threatened the lives of my family members and my children in particular, and requested information and cooperation. My only answer was, no.”
“The accusations about my role in providing information about martyred nuclear scientists are false and dastardly,” he added. “I have rejected them with numerous … documents that have been presented to the court.”
Djalali was sentenced to death for the charge of “collaborating with a hostile government” by a Revolutionary Court in Tehran in October 2017. On December 5, 2017, the Supreme Court upheld the death sentence.
A researcher in disaster medicine, Djalali has been accused of providing information to Israel that was allegedly used for the assassination of Iranian scientists. Djalali was arrested in April 2016 while traveling to Iran from Sweden on invitation of Tehran University to speak about his expertise in disaster medicine.
In 2012, Iran’s Intelligence Ministry claimed it had arrested several people in connection with the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientists Ali-Mohammadi and Majid Shahriari two years earlier in 2010.
Only one person was prosecuted for the assassinations, Majid Jamali Fashi, who was executed in May 2012 for allegedly killing Ali-Mohammadi in January 2010.
“The indisputable fact is that Dr. [Masoud] Ali-Mohammadi was martyred on January 12, 2010, at least three months before European agents approached me in the spring of 2010,” wrote Djalali in his letter. “This was even mentioned in the TV program based on my montaged statements, which prove that the accusations against me are contradictory lies.”
“How could I be accused of giving information about someone who was martyred four months earlier?” wrote Djalali.
On December 17, 2017, the state-funded Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) service aired Djalali’s forced confession, which was recorded while he was being held in solitary confinement under extreme duress.
IRIB has a long history of broadcasting forced confessions. Typically well-staged productions, they are used to defame dissidents, intellectuals, and other individuals whom the authorities wish to discredit, legitimize their prosecution, and amass public support for their sentences.
The edited footage does not show viewers which questions Djalali was asked or who asked them. The IRIB presenter accuses Djalali of spying for Israel, however, nowhere in Djalali’s so-called “confession” does he mention Israel or its secret service by name.
“I have never had any personal, scientific or professional ties with the martyred scientists,” wrote Djalali in his letter. “I only had a conversation with these honorable individuals about medical educational matters seven or eight years before their martyrdom.”
Djalali’s wife has stated that her husband was forced to rehearse and read the confession that was broadcast, and that his interrogators threatened that his family and children would be killed if he did not make the taped statement.
In a different, undated letter from Evin Prison, Djalali wrote that he was imprisoned for refusing to spy for Iran’s Intelligence Ministry.
The young physicist Omid Kokabee was imprisoned in Iran for over five years for similarly refusing to conduct military research for Iran.