Ahmad Reza Jalali, the Iranian physician and resident of Sweden who has been sentenced to death for spying for Israel, has been blindfolded and transferred from Evin Prison to an unknown location, where he is facing fresh interrogations. His family in Tehran has not been given any information about who ordered the transfer, why he has been moved from Evin, or under what conditions he is being held. Until July 29, Dr. Jalali was an inmate of Evin’s communal Ward 7.
Dr. Jalali’s mother, Najibeh Mortazavi, who is ill and disabled, told IranWire during a short phone conversation that her son said authorities had taken him by car to a “faraway” location. “We have no idea why,” she said. “Nobody tells us anything. Ahmad Reza is allowed to make phone calls but the calls are short and he cannot speak freely. When I asked him why they had moved him to another location, he said that it was probably something new, meaning that maybe they have opened a new case against him and he is being interrogated again. I am very worried.”
Jalali’s wife Vida Mehran Nia, who lives in Sweden with the couple’s two children, told IranWire: “Ahmad Reza called his mother on Tuesday, July 30, and told her that they had taken him to an unknown location. He calls his mother every day but he cannot give her specific information. We heard that at first they took him out of Ward 7 to ask him some questions, but then they blindfolded him and drove him to someplace else. We do not know whether it is the Revolutionary Guards who are responsible for this transfer or the Intelligence Ministry. We have no information whatsoever.”
On August 3, Vida Mehran Nia added that authorities were trying to extract fresh confessions from him. "Through torture and threatening to execute him, they are trying to force confessions of things he has not done. He is currently in a very bad mental state and this situation is beyond bearable for him.”
Mortazavi says that because of her illness she has not been able to visit her son for close to a year. “The last time his sister and brother visited him was 15 days ago,” she said. “They said Ahmad Reza had lost a lot of weight. He was thinner than he was in the photograph that had been published of him, and he was not in the mood to talk.”
“Couldn’t they ask him questions where he was?”
“Last week Ahmad Reza had a blood test and other tests were scheduled,” Mortazavi said. “Last year’s surgery was not successful. He felt bad afterward and had requested to be returned to the hospital but he received no answers to his request. Now they have taken him to another location. But he is ill. Why do they do such things? Couldn’t they ask Ahmad Reza any question that they wanted at Evin Prison?
“Ahmad Reza has been in prison for three years and three months,” she said. “We have requested a leave of absence for him many times. We said we would post any bail they wanted so that I could see him for just two days but they did not consent.”
During these three years and three months, she says, nobody has listened to them. “I have asked the officials to treat my son’s case in a just manner. Now I ask Mr. Raeesi, the new head of the judiciary, to investigate my son’s case. He should find out why during all this time he has not been given a leave of absence even for one day. This is not right.”
Jalali, an Iranian physician and researcher specializing in medicine for disaster relief, taught at Vrije University Brussel (VUB) in Belgium. A permanent resident of Sweden, he began researching and working on disaster relief in 1999, including on a recent project to develop training courses for EU-based professionals working with countries affected by natural disasters. He also worked with the University of Eastern Piedmont in Italy on relief initiatives for developing countries affected by earthquakes and floods.
Tehran University and the Iranian Red Crescent had invited Jalali to attend scientific seminars and workshops in the past and he never had any problems. But on April 24, 2016, just three days before he was due to return to Sweden, intelligence ministry agents arrested him. On August 23, 2017, Judge Abolghasem Salavati tried him at Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court, and sentenced him to death on the charge of spying for Israel. His lawyer Dabir Daryabeigi was informed of the verdict in October 2017.
Sentenced for Not Spying
A few hours after the verdict was announced, Dr. Jalali posted a letter online in English, entitled “Why was I arrested by the intelligence ministry?” He explained in detail how he had been arrested because he had refused to spy for the ministry and to provide it with other countries’ terrorism-related information. He wrote that Iranian officials had contacted him twice before, asking for his cooperation.
Less than two months later, Branch 1 of the Iranian Supreme Court upheld Jalali’s death sentence. His lawyer has requested that the case be reopened but has been met with silence.
Amnesty International, the European Union, and scientists campaigning for the protection and freedom of academics all condemned the sentence. In December 2017, The Iranian Ministry of Intelligence responded to international protests by broadcasting Jalali’s so-called confessions as part of a video about his alleged crimes [Persian video]. In the video, Jalali, wearing a white shirt, introduces himself and tells the viewer that after graduation he worked with the health ministry’s Center for Crisis Management and later worked for the Ministry of Defense. Then the video shows stills of Jalali and a voiceover tells the audience that Jalali fell into a trap set by Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency, while he was attending a training course outside Iran. “Mossad officers guided Jalali in gathering information that they needed,” says the unseen narrator.
But nowhere in the video does Jalali himself concede that he has been working for Mossad.
Shortly after his arrest, Jalali fell ill. In April 2018, a photograph of him looking extremely underweight was shared on social media and published by news and human rights websites. He and his family continued to request he receive medical attention, appeals that were ignored until November 18, 2018, when his condition became critical and he was rushed to Tehran’s Taleghani hospital for surgery to treat a hernia. However, he was sent back to prison the next day before his stitches had properly healed, leaving him in need of further surgery.
Today, Jalali’s mother says that he has lost even more weight. News of his transfer out of Evin has given her, the family and Jalali’s supporters further cause for worry.
Spy for Us or Else: Ahmad Reza Jalali, May 21, 2019
Jalali Appeals for Freedom as New Trial Looms, January 24, 2018
Jalali Disowns Forced Confessions, December 20, 2018
Jalali’s Forced Confessions, December 19, 2017
Scientists Around the World Call for Jalali’s Release, December 12, 2017
Was Jalali's Lawyer Working Against Him?, December 11, 2017
Scientists Urge Action for Ahmad Reza Jalali, October 26, 2017
Iran Sentences “Mossad Agent” to Death, October 25, 2017
Dr. Ahmad Reza Jalali’s Day in Court, September 1, 2017
Scientist Sentenced to Death Without Trial, February 13, 2017