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In Tit For Tat, Iran Levels Serious Charge Against A Swede

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One day after a Swedish court upheld the conviction of a former Iranian jailer for killing prisoners, a Tehran court leveled serious accusations against a Swedish man.

Johan Floderus, detained in April 2022 during a vacation in Iran on charges of espionage, is now navigating a legal process marked by little transparency and what appears to be a hostage situation. He has been in detention for more than 600 days. 

Iranian officials vehemently slammed a Swedish appeals court for upholding a life sentence for Hamid Nouri, a former prison official who was convicted earlier this year for his role in the massacre of up to 5,000 political prisoners in 1988. The Swedish verdict upholding the sentence was announced on Wednesday, as Tehran used pressures and threats to influence the appeal decision.

Now, Floderus is accused of “corruption on earth”, a serious Sharia charge that can lead even to a death sentence. This particular charge is often used by the Iranian regime against pollical opponents. He is accused of espionage, but the case, as many other similar detentions of foreigners in Iran, is wrapped in a lack of transparency.

He was told in the court on Wednesday that “These accusations are based on intelligence surveillance by Iranian security forces, scrutiny of messages, emails, monitoring of your mobile phone, your travels to various countries, your presence in Iran’s border cities, your communications, trips to occupied territories [Israel], and other pieces of evidence.”

Swedish EU employee Johan Floderus attends a court session in Tehran, Iran, December 20, 2023.

According to Iranian media, Floderus did not accept the allegations attributed to himself and emphasized: “The issued warrant has a general and abstract nature and has no direct connection with me.”

Judge Iman Afshari also accused Floderus of having connections with Swedish military institutions, but this EU diplomat emphasized that after completing his 13-month military service, he had no ties to Swedish military, intelligence, or security institutions.”

Iran’s foreign ministry and Judicial authorities have categorically rejected the Swedish appeal court’s decision regarding Hamid Nouri. Naser Kanaani, the foreign ministry spokesperson responded to the confirmation of the life imprisonment sentence for Nouri, saying, “Iran fundamentally finds the verdicts of the lower and appellate courts regarding Hamid Nouri unacceptable and strongly condemns them.” 

Kazem Gharibabadi, the Secretary of the Human Rights Headquarters of Iran’s Judiciary, threatened that “Sweden’s actions in this regard will not be without cost.” He made a bizarre statement that “In this case, the English were also involved, and it was not a case solely decided by Sweden.”

The Floderus case is similar to the conviction of Assadollah Assadi, an Iranian diplomat convicted for terrorism in Belgium but released in May after Iran detained a Belgian traveller and accused him of espionage. Aid worker Olivier Vandecasteele spent 455 days in Iranian detention facing an uncertain future until Belgium gave in and released the convicted Iranian official.

At the time, many warned that such a prisoner exchange would set a dangerous precedent for other Westerners. The Islamic Republic of Iran has a history of detaining foreigners and dual national to use the as bargaining leverage against Western countries.