Published: 25-04-2024 06:00 | Updated: 26-04-2024 11:44

KI president: “Ahmadreza Djalali is a victim of a cynical game played by the Iranian government”

26 April marks the eighth anniversary of the arrest of Ahmadreza Djalali during a professional visit to Iran.
25 April marks the eighth anniversary of the arrest of Ahmadreza Djalali during a professional visit to Iran. Photo: Amnesty International/Ulf Sirborn.

On 25 April it was eight years since Ahmadreza Djalali, Swedish citizen and doctor of disaster medicine at Karolinska Institutet, was arrested while on a visit to Iran. Karolinska Institutet’s president, Annika Östman Wernerson, and vice-president, Martin Bergö, have written an open letter to Sweden’s minister for foreign affairs and minister for education, calling on them to use all means available to increase the pressure on Iran to free Dr Djalali and other Swedish citizens.

The letter in full: 

To Minister for Foreign Affairs Tobias Billström, Cabinet Secretary Jan Knutsson and Minister for Education Mats Persson.

The health of the people who have been imprisoned in Iran on unjust and unlawful grounds is worsening by the day. To make matters worse, the recent deterioration of regional security is escalating an already complex situation. 

At least two Swedish citizens, Ahmadreza Djalali and Johan Floderus, are amongst this group of prisoners. It is imperative that the Swedish government does everything in its power to secure their release so that they may return home to Sweden and their families.

The President Annika Östman Wernerson and the Vice President Martin Bergö
KI's president Annika Östman Wernerson and vice-president Martin Bergö write an open letter to the government appealing for all means to secure the release of Ahmadreza Djalali and other Swedish citizens in Iranian prisons. Photo: Martin Stenmark.

Karolinska Institutet (KI) has a long-standing relationship with and commitment to physician and researcher in disaster medicine, Ahmadreza Djalali, who earned his PhD at KI in 2012 after having enrolled at KI as a doctoral student four years earlier. 

He was subsequently affiliated with KI until 2016 as well as with universities in Belgium, Italy and elsewhere within his field of expertise: disaster medicine. In the spring of 2016, he was invited to Iran for a series of conferences and lectures. 

Eight years ago on 25 April, he was arrested by the Iranian police and after a trial lacking everything that could reasonably be asked of fair and lawful proceedings, he was sentenced to death the following year. 

The process was one of fabricated evidence, concocted accusations, confessions extracted under intimidation and torture, a secret hearing and an absence of legal support.   

For these past eight years, Ahmadreza Djalali has had to live under the constant threat of execution. His health has deteriorated significantly due to the combination of dreadful living conditions and a lack of decent healthcare. Contact with his family in Sweden has been heavily restricted, as have any opportunities to talk to a lawyer or other support persons.   

The international reaction to Iran’s treatment of Ahmadreza Djalali has been considerable, the remonstrations having involved a great many academic colleagues and Nobel laureates the world over, strongly worded statements from the EU parliament, activities, letters of protest, petitions from national and international organisations, individual political engagement and much more besides.

We are also aware that during all this time, the Swedish government has been clear in condemning the sentence against and treatment of Ahmadreza Djalali as wholly unacceptable. 

However, despite all the opinions expressed and demonstrations held, nothing has happened. Our highly valued colleague still remains incarcerated under appalling conditions with a death threat hanging over him. 

We have noted recently that the unlawful arrest and imprisonment of Johan Floderus has drawn considerable attention and essentially welcome it, since it will hopefully also benefit Ahmadreza Djalali – and even shed a brighter light on the cynical game that Iran is playing in which it uses innocent human lives to gain an advantage on the global arena. 

Meanwhile, as time passes, those of us who are in regular contact with Ahmadreza Djalali’s family are growing ever more frustrated with the lack of movement in his case. 

We therefore appeal to the Swedish government to use every means at its disposal to intensify the pressure on Iran and unequivocally demand that all Swedish citizens who have been innocently imprisoned in the country to be immediately returned to Sweden. 

Candle-lighting at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs  

Swedish Amnesty invites and encourages the public to come to Gustav Adolfs Torg in Stockholm, outside the Ministry for Foreign Affairs (UD) on 26 April. 

A candle-lighting event will be held there to draw attention to the case of Ahmadreza Djalali.

Time: 26 April, 15.30-16.30
Place: Outside UD, Gustav Adolfs Torg, Stockholm