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Iran accuses jailed Swedish EU employee of crime punishable by death

Swedish citizen Johan Floderus arrives at a courtroom at the Revolutionary Court in Tehran, Iran, 10 December 2023.
Swedish citizen Johan Floderus arrives at a courtroom at the Revolutionary Court in Tehran, Iran, 10 December 2023. Copyright AmirAbbas Ghasemi/AP
Copyright AmirAbbas Ghasemi/AP
By Mared Gwyn Jones
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Iran has accused Swedish EU employee Johan Floderus of spying for Israel and "corruption on earth", a crime that carries the death penalty under Tehran's islamic laws.

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According to the Iranian judiciary’s Mizan news agency, during his first hearing on Sunday, Floderus was charged with "corruption on earth, extensive measures against the security of Iran" and "intelligence cooperation" with Israel.

His family vehemently deny the accusations against him and are campaigning for his release from Tehran's Evin prison, where he has been held for more than 600 days.

Speaking in Brussels ahead of a ministerial meeting on Monday morning, Sweden's foreign minister Tobias Billström said that the accusations were "completely baseless and false."

"We of course call on the Iranian government to release him so that he can be reunited with his family as soon as possible," Billström said, adding that the Swedish government's priority was to ensure "official channels" for discussions with Tehran as well as Sweden's diplomatic presence during at the trial.

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson also demanded Floderus' immediate release during a press conference in Stockholm on Monday.

The European Union's High Representative for foreign affairs Josep Borrell said on Sunday that there are "absolutely no grounds for keeping Johan Floderus in detention," and vowed to "work tirelessly" to ensure his release.

"We are seeking clarification and more information from them (the Iranian authorities) in close coordination with the Swedish authorities, who bear the consular responsibility," an EU spokesperson for foreign affairs added on Monday.

Floderus was arrested by Iranian authorities in April 2022 when he landed in Tehran to visit a friend working for the Swedish embassy. 

He is a graduate of the universities of Oxford, Uppsala and SOAS London, and at the time of his arrest worked on the Afghanistan desk of the EU's external action service.

He previously held positions at the European Commission's department for international partnerships and the cabinet of Swedish home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson.

"Johan is fond of his family, dogs and CrossFit and has great interest in history, literature and culture," reads a description from his family.

Johan Floderus sits at a courtroom at the Revolutionary Court in Tehran, Iran on Sunday December 10.
Johan Floderus sits at a courtroom at the Revolutionary Court in Tehran, Iran on Sunday December 10.AmirAbbas Ghasemi/AP

Floderus is the latest EU citizen to be arbitrarily denied by the Iranian regime on widely contested criminal charges. Many before him have been released only after Iran has drawn out concessions from governments, such as the release of Iranian prisoners held in European prisons.

Floderus' arrest came during Sweden's trial of Hamid Noury, an Iranian accused of mass executions of dissidents in Tehran in 1988.

His family say he is a "victim of Iran's alarming pattern of taking foreign nationals hostage for political purposes."

Diplomatic efforts to secure his release, which have so far failed, are expected to step up after the Iranian judiciary's indictment invoked article 286 of the Islamic penal code, which carries the death penalty.

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He has also been accused of working "under the disguise of humanitarian projects with the guidance of Israeli agents," and faces punishment under a 2020 Iranian law purported to counter "hostile" actions by Israel against the people of Palestine.

The accusations against Floderus come as diplomatic tensions between EU and Iran escalate. On Sunday, the family of Mahsa Amini was stopped by Iranian authorities from travelling to the European Parliament in Strasbourg to collect the EU's prestigious Sakharov Prize prize on her behalf.

Amini, the Iranian Kurdish woman killed after being detained by Iran's morality police in September 2022, was awarded the EU's highest human rights prize 

The family was due to collect the Sakharov Prize, awarded by the European Parliament to Amini and the unprecedented 'Woman, Life, Freedom' movement against the repression of women in Iran that was sparked by her death.

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The European Parliament's President, Roberta Metsola, called on Iran to retract the decision on social media platform X.

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