On Tuesday 17 May, two Brussels universities (VUB and ULB) and Amnesty International are organising a mass protest against the impending execution of VUB guest professor Ahmadreza Djalali in Iran and for his immediate release.
At the start of the month, the Iranian authorities announced that Djalali, an Iranian-Swedish scientist who has been imprisoned in Iran for more than five years after he was arrested during a working visit to the country, would be executed before 21 May.
"More than 130,000 people in Belgium have already spoken out for the release of Ahmadreza Djalali through petitions and other means. However, the threat of execution has never been more acute," said director of Amnesty International Flanders, Wies De Graeve. "Dr Djalali's life is hanging by a thread at the moment."
It is "crucial" to show the Iranian authorities that there is a lot of support for the release Djalali, he stressed. "Therefore, we call on everyone who spoke out against Dr Djalali's detention, the death penalty and execution in recent years to join in making noise to change the minds of the Iranian authorities."
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Asked about Djalali's case by The Brussels Times on Thursday, lead spokesperson of the European Commission for Foreign Affairs Peter Stano said that the Commission is following the case very closely. "This is one of the examples where we are also working very closely with the country involved, Sweden."
The protest will take place on the ULB campus on Avenue Franklin Roosevelt, opposite the Iranian Embassy in the Brussels municipality of Ixelles.
Representatives of ULB, VUB and Amnesty International will address the supporters, students and university staff present. Several Belgian MPs, who have adopted motions calling for the release of Djalali, have also been invited.
Djalali specialises in disaster medicine and was arrested in April 2016 during a working visit to Iran and charged with espionage. For the first ten days, no one knew where he was being held.
In his dissertation he studied the impacts of a training program he had designed to increase knowledge about disaster preparedness at Iranian hospitals. He dedicated the thesis to ”The people killed or affected by disasters around the world” and particularly to the inhabitants in the Iranian town Bam, where an earthquake in 2003 took the lives of 30,000 people.
In late October 2017, he was sentenced to death after what Amnesty International calls a "manifestly unfair trial." Djalali was forced to confess under psychological torture and spent the first three months of his detention in solitary confinement. His lawyer was only allowed to visit him seven months after his arrest.
An Amnesty International petition to demand his release can be signed here.