Family of EU diplomat being held captive by Iran calls for his release

Johan Floderus was arrested in April 2022 at Tehran's airport as he was returning home from a trip with friends

Johan Floderus. Photo: Twitter
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The family of a Swedish EU diplomat who has been held captive in Iran for more than 500 days has urged the international community to help secure his release.

Johan Floderus was arrested on April 17, 2022 at Tehran's airport as he was returning home from a trip with friends.

"The family, friends, and supporters of Johan are calling for urgent international attention to secure his immediate release and safe return to Europe," the family wrote on a website dedicated to his release, on his 33rd birthday.

They said Mr Floderus is being held without formal charges at Tehran's Evin prison, where political prisoners and detainees facing security charges, including Iranians with dual nationality, are jailed.

His family said Mr Floderus had travelled throughout the Middle East to study languages, explore historic sites and to support humanitarian cooperation projects in Iran on behalf of the EU, and was arrested in April 2022 before leaving the country.

"His needs for adequate food rations, outside walks, medical checkups and much more are not respected (in jail)," his family wrote, adding that he had been denied "communicating" with Sweden's embassy in Tehran, except a few consular visits.

They said that starting in February 2023 Mr Floderus was restricted to making short phone calls once a month.

"He had to go on hunger strike to be allowed to make several of these calls, which have to be in English and monitored."

Earlier this week EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told reporters that Brussels was pushing “relentlessly” for his release.

“This is very much in our agenda, in our heart and we will not stop until Floderus will be free," he said.

For years, Iran's Revolutionary Guards have arrested dozens of dual nationals and foreigners, mostly on espionage and security-related charges.

Criminal code

Rights groups and Western governments have accused the Islamic Republic 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 denies holding people for political reasons.

Mr Floderus’s family said he "has become yet another victim of Iran's alarming pattern of taking foreign nationals hostage for political purposes”.

Relations between Stockholm and Tehran have been tense since 2019 when Sweden arrested former Iranian official Hamid Noury for his role in the Iranian regime's 1988 mass executions of thousands of opponents.

He was sentenced to life in prison last year, prompting Iran to recall its envoy to Sweden in protest.

Iran announced in July last year that it had arrested a man on suspicion of espionage, two weeks after Mr Noury was sentenced.

According to a report in Swedish daily Aftonbladet, sources have said Iran arrested Mr Floderus in the hope of exchanging him with Mr Noury.

If agreed, it would not be the first time a prisoner swap between Iran and European countries has taken place.

In May, Belgian humanitarian worker Olivier Vandecasteele, 42, was released after 15 months in detention for alleged spying in a prisoner swap for Iranian diplomat Assadollah Assadi, sentenced to 20 years for plotting to bomb an opposition rally in Paris.

Several capitals have accused Iran of practising “hostage diplomacy” – arresting western citizens to obtain concessions such as the release of detained Iranians.

Updated: September 10, 2023, 12:39 PM