VUB guest lecturer to be executed after Iran rejects prisoner swap

VUB guest lecturer to be executed after Iran rejects prisoner swap
Protest at the imprisonment of Prof Djalali on fake espionage charges. Credit: Belga

On Tuesday, Iran announced that it would not consider a prisoner exchange between VUB guest lecturer Ahmadreza Djalali (49) and a former Iranian prison officer on trial in Stockholm for war crimes.

Djalali is an Iranian-Swedish scientist who has been imprisoned in Iran for more than five years after he was arrested and charged with espionage during a working visit to the country in 2016.

At the end of October 2017, he was sentenced to death after what human rights experts wrote off as a sham trial. Last week, Iran announced that he would be executed by 21 May.

On Tuesday, Iran's judiciary turned down a possible exchange of Djalali for Hamid Noury, a former Iranian official on trial for war crimes in Stockholm.

In an apparent riposte to claims that Iran is "using prisoners as currency", a spokesperson for the Iranian judiciary told press in Tehran that the two cases "have nothing to do with each other… as a result, there is no question of an exchange."

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Noury was accused of playing a key role in the mass execution and torture of political prisoners at an Iranian prison in the 1980s. Iran's rejection of an exchange comes days after Noury's trial concluded in Sweden. The verdict is due in July, but he could face a life sentence.

Djalali, meanwhile, was accused of passing information about two officials of Iran's nuclear program to the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad. "Djalali has been sentenced to death on several charges and the verdict is final. The sentence will be carried out," Iranian officials said.

An Amnesty International petition demanding his release has already received more than 135,000 signatures in Belgium.

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