Academics demand maximum pressure on Iran over VUB professor death sentence
Thursday, 26 November 2020
Dr. Ahmadreza Djalali
The five Flemish universities in Belgium have issued a joint call for the government to exert “maximum pressure” on Iran to call off the execution of Ahmadreza Djalali.
Earlier this week Dr. Djalali, who has Iranian and Swedish nationality and was a visiting professor at the Free University of Brussels (VUB), telephoned his wife in Sweden to tell her he was being transferred to solitary confinement.
That move, according to prisoners’ right charity Amnesty International, is often a prelude to an execution in Iran.
Dr, Djalali, an emergency medicine specialist, was arrested on a trip to Iran in 2016 and charged with espionage, at a trial where he was not allowed to defend himself. He claims the trial and conviction were retribution for his refusal to spy for Iran while he was working in Sweden.
He was sentenced to death, despite an outcry from Swedish authorities. Iran rejected the criticism, arguing that foreigners had no right to interfere in how Iranian justice deals with one of its own citizens.
Sweden’s response was to grant him Swedish nationality.
In their letter, the members of the Flemish inter-university council – the rectors of the five Dutch-speaking universities (Antwerp, Brussels, Ghent, Hasselt and Leuven) said they were “horrified” to note that “after two and a half years of diplomatic efforts, Mr Djalali’s situation has deteriorated drastically.”
“This public attention is of vital importance,” VUB rector Caroline Pauwels told De Tijd. “As long as Ahmadreza is alive, we have a duty to take action. The next step could be to tackle this at a European and international level.”
Yesterday Sophie Wilmès (MR), former prime minister now minister for foreign affairs, sent a message to the Iranian ambassador to Belgium, expressing support for the call from her Swedish counterpart, Ann Linde, for the cancellation of the death sentence on the scientist.