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European Union home affairs chief appeals for release of Swedish EU employee held in Iranian prison

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September 11, 2023
By The Associated Press

By Samuel Petrequin

The European Union’s home affairs commissioner made an impassioned appeal Monday for the release of a Swedish employee of the EU’s diplomatic corps who spent a second birthday in an infamous Iranian prison.

Sweden said last week that Johan Floderus, who worked for the European Union’s External Action Service, was arbitrarily detained in Iran last year. He has been in custody for more than 500 days and turned 33 on Sunday.

Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson said Floderus was part of her Cabinet for almost two years but had asked to work for the EU delegation in Afghanistan before he was detained in Iran.

“I’m very sad. I’m very worried,” Johansson told journalists Monday. “This has been with me for such a long time now. Of course, my feelings, my worries, are nothing compared to the situation of Johan or the worries that his closest family are living with every day.”

Johansson said it was up to the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs to work for Floderus’ release in coordination with the EU’s diplomatic service.

Family and friends have started a public campaign to win Floderus’ freedom. According to his family, he has been held in brutal conditions at Iran’s Evin prison. Since its construction in 1971, the prison has been the site of a series of abuses that continued after Iran’s shah was overthrown into the Islamic Republic.

“The conditions under which Johan is held in prison, with 24-hour cell light, are unacceptable,” Floderus’ family said in a statement. “His needs for adequate food rations, outside walks, medical checkups and much more are not respected. His exposure to fresh air and sunlight is restricted to only 3 1/2 hours per week. In blatant disregard of international guidelines, he has spent over 300 days in solitary confinement.”

The family said he was arrested in April 2022 at the Tehran airport while returning from a leisure trip with friends. His relative said Floderus was denied any contact with them during the first 10 months of his detention and has been granted only “a very few number of consular visits.”

The Islamic Republic’s Intelligence Ministry said on July 30, 2022, that its agents had arrested a Swedish citizen for spying.

The ministry did not identify the man but said he was arrested after making several visits to the country and after going to Israel. The ministry’s statement accused Sweden of proxy-spying for Israel.

Relations between Stockholm and Tehran have been tense in recent years.

Iran recalled its ambassador from Sweden last year after a Swedish court convicted Iranian citizen Hamid Noury of war crimes and murder during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s and sentenced him to life in prison.

The Stockholm District Court said that Noury took part in severe atrocities in July-August 1988 while working as an assistant to the deputy prosecutor at the Gohardasht prison outside the Iranian city of Karaj. Noury, who was arrested in November 2019 when he arrived in Stockholm on a tourist trip, has appealed the verdict.

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