Iranian journalist flees to claim asylum in Sweden during Javad Zarif trip

A veteran journalist says he escaped the foreign minster's delegation during a trip to Stockholm

Irans Foreign Minister Javad Zarif gives a lecture at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, SIPRI, in Stockholm, Sweden, Wednesday  Aug. 21, 2019. Javad Zarif is on a visit to Sweden for talks on bilateral and regional issues. (Janerik Henriksson / TT via AP)

An Iranian journalist is claiming asylum in Sweden after fleeing a government detail during a visit by Foreign Minister Javad Zarif.

Amir Tohid Fazel, political editor of the conservative Iranian news agency Moj, who has decades of experience, said in an interview with Sweden's national public television broadcaster that he had been forced to escape after a friend  tipped him off that plainclothes police had arrived at his office with an arrest warrant.

Mr Fazel said he suspects that the police interest in him was due to a list he published that allegedly named the members of President Hassan Rouhani’s government who have dual citizenship, something that could be used by hardliners to portray them as traitors to the country.

On August 21, just after breakfast and before a planned lecture by Mr Zarif at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Mr Fazel slipped out for a cigarette and ran away.

He changed his clothes, threw away his SIM card and went to the nearest police station.

Mr Fazel said he is now worried about his family in Iran — his wife has lost her job and his son, nine, is having trouble at school.

"I don't know what's going to happen to them," he said.

The escape comes amid increased tension between Tehran and the West.

The Iranian economy has been struggling since the US reimposed sanctions after pulling out of a pivotal 2015 nuclear deal that put limits on Tehran's uranium enrichment programme.

The two countries have also been at loggerheads over the Grace 1 supertanker, which has been renamed the Adrian Darya-1.

The Grace 1 was released on August 18 after being held by the UK in Gibraltar for five weeks on suspicion of carrying oil to Syria in breach of European Union sanctions.

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