Thursday, 15 April 2021
Ahmadreza Djalali, the Swedish-Iranian professor who guested at the Free University (VUB) in Brussels, has been moved out of solitary confinement in Iran, according to Amnesty International.
Professor Djalali, an expert on disaster medicine, was arrested while visiting a conference in Iran in 2016 on charges of espionage. The charges were an invention, his supporters argue, trumped up after he refused to spy for Iran in the West. They also point out his trial, where he was sentenced to death, lacked even the most basic democratic protections.
Since then he has been imprisoned, and Amnesty has picked up his case.
Sweden, where he lives with his wife and family, granted him nationality. And the fact that he had been a guest professor at the VUB brought Brussels into the case. The rectors of both Brussels universities, ULB and VUB, have called for international action on his behalf.
Recently, it seemed as if the clouds were gathering. First, he was moved into solitary confinement, normally a precursor to execution. Then in December, it was announced he was being moved from Evin prison in Tehran to Rajaj Shar prison in Karaj, where executions are carried out.
However, the move was suspended by a judge, ostensibly to allow him one more contact with his family.
At the time, it appeared that Iran might be playing a game of chicken with the Belgian authorities, in connection with a trial taking place in Antwerp involving an Iranian diplomat accused of taking part in a plot to blow up a meeting of Iranian dissidents near Paris.
In the event, the trial ran its course, and the diplomat was convicted in absentia, though is unlikely ever to face justice. It seems unlikely that Iran, whatever its own internal system, does not understand that political pressure is of little weight in European justice systems.
Nonetheless, Amnesty now reports Djalali has been moved out of solitary after 20 weeks spent alone in a constantly lit cell for one in Evin prison.
“We are somewhat relieved that this ends long-term solitary confinement, which was a form of torture,” Amnesty posted on Facebook.
“Djalali is in bad shape. He must have again lost a lot of weight. He still faces the death penalty, to which he was sentenced after a manifestly unfair trial. And so we continue to campaign: www.amnesty-international.be.”
The Brussels Times