Iran begins trial of Swedish EU employee accused of ‘spying for Israel’

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Swedish EU employee Johan Floderus attends a court session in Tehran on Sunday [Amir-abbas Ghasemi/Mizan/Wana/Reuters]

Johan Floderus, who was arrested at Tehran airport in April last year, is charged with operating through US and European projects.

Iran says it has begun the trial of a Swedish national employed by the European Union who is charged with spying for Israel and “corruption on earth”, a crime that carries the death penalty.

Johan Floderus was indicted “based on corruption on earth, widespread activities against national security [and] wide intelligence cooperation with the Zionist regime”, a reference to Israel, the Iranian judiciary’s Mizan news agency said in an online report on Sunday.

Corruption on earth is a capital offence under Iran’s Islamic laws.

Floderus, 33, was arrested on April 17, 2022, at Tehran airport as he was returning to Iran from a trip with friends. The Swede, who works for the EU diplomatic service, is being held in Tehran’s Evin prison.

Mizan published photos of a handcuffed Floderus appearing before judges in a pale blue prison uniform as the charges were read.

Iran’s judiciary, in a statement, said Floderus had operated through projects by the United States and European institutions to gather intelligence for Israel.

Iranian officials said he had been in touch with several European and non-European suspects in Iran and had visited Israel, Iran’s foe, before visiting Iran. The statement accused Sweden of proxy spying for Israel.

Sweden on Sunday said the trial of Floderus has begun in Iran but did not say what he was charged with.

“Johan Floderus has been arbitrarily detained and every accusation and charge is false,” a spokesperson for Sweden’s Foreign Ministry said in an emailed comment to the Reuters news agency.

“We have conveyed this clearly to Iran at different levels and times, the most recent being yesterday [Saturday].”

Floderus’s family has said he was detained “without any justifiable cause or due process”.

The EU’s top foreign policy chief Josep Borrell on Sunday called for his immediate release, saying “there are absolutely no grounds for keeping Johan Floderus in detention”.

Sweden’s Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom added: “There is no basis whatsoever for keeping Johan Floderus in detention, let alone bringing him to trial.”

Rights groups and Western governments have accused Iran of trying to extract political concessions from other countries through arrests on security charges that may have been trumped up.

Tehran says such arrests are based on its criminal code and it denies holding people for political reasons.

Relations between Sweden and Iran have been tense since 2019 when Sweden arrested Hamid Noury, a former Iranian official for his part in the mass execution and torture of political prisoners in the 1980s.

Noury ultimately received a life sentence in July 2022. The Court of Appeals in Sweden is expected to announce a verdict in the case on December 19.

In May this year, Iran executed Swedish-Iranian dissident Habib Farajollah Chaab, convicted of leading a separatist group Tehran blames for several attacks, including one on a military parade in 2018 that killed 25 people.

SOURCE: NEWS AGENCIES

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