Iran has upheld a death sentence for an Iranian-Swedish national accused of spying for Israel, ruling out a prisoner swap with an Iranian official on trial in Stockholm.
The judiciary spokesman said Ahmadreza Djalali — a 51-year-old disaster medicine researcher arrested in 2016 — had transferred confidential information to the Israeli intelligence service, including details about Iranian nuclear scientists widely believed to have been killed by Mossad.
“This person is sentenced to death over multiple charges. The sentence is definite and is on the agenda of judicial officials to carry it out,” Zabihollah Khodaeian told reporters. Earlier reports suggested Djalali would be hanged by the end of this Iranian month, May 21. Djalali has pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Without giving an exact date for the execution, Khodaeian reiterated Iran’s suspicions that the decision to award him Swedish nationality was politically motivated. Djalali, who had previously lived in Sweden, received Swedish citizenship while he was in jail.
The final verdict — issued after several failed appeals over the past four years — coincides with the end of the trial of Hamid Nouri, a former Iranian official, in Stockholm.
Nouri, on a personal visit to Sweden when spotted by exiled members of the Iranian opposition, is accused by Swedish prosecutors of “intentionally killing, with other perpetrators, a large number of prisoners” during a mass execution of political prisoners at the end of the war with Iraq in 1988. The verdict is due in July and, if found guilty, Nouri could face a life sentence.
Speculation has been rife in Tehran and western capitals that Iran could be seeking to swap the two prisoners. But Khodaeian said the two cases were not related. “Mr Djalali was arrested two years before [Nouri] . . . There is no discussion about a swap.” The fact that Iran did not wait for the Swedish verdict on Nouri makes an exchange less likely, western diplomatic sources in Tehran said.
Helaleh Mousavian, Djalali’s lawyer, confirmed that the verdict was final but she said “considering his Swedish nationality, political and diplomatic relations between countries could still be effective”.
Djalali’s execution could happen at any time, she said. “When I went to the court on Saturday, I was told the sentence could no longer be delayed. But it has not been officially notified to me, which can even happen only a few hours before the execution.”
It is rare for Iran to execute a western national. More than a dozen dual nationals are in jail on security charges in Tehran. Iran has previously suggested that some jailed Iranian-American nationals could be swapped with Iranian prisoners in US jails.
Western diplomatic sources in Tehran confirmed that Iran also arrested a Swedish tourist this month without giving any further details. Swedish foreign minister Ann Linde called her Iranian counterpart Hossein Amirabdollahian last week shortly after initial reports about Djalali’s death sentence.