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Fear Over Imminent Execution of Scientist Charged with Espionage

November 25, 2020
3 min read
Vida Mehran Nia says her husband is in imminent danger of execution
Vida Mehran Nia says her husband is in imminent danger of execution

Iranian academic Ahmad Reza Jalali has been transferred out of Evin Prison and faces imminent execution, his wife has said.

"Ahmad Reza said in a short phone call that he was to be transferred to Rajaei Shahr Prison and that his sentence would be carried out,” Vida Mehran Nia reported.

Amnesty International stated that he was being held in solitary confinement and that Iranian authorities planned to “implement his death sentence no later than a week from 24 November.”

“It is appalling that despite repeated calls from UN human rights experts to quash Ahmad Reza Jalali’s death sentence and release him, the Iranian authorities have instead decided to push for this irreversible injustice,” said Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa Diana Eltahawy in a statement. “They must immediately halt any plans to execute Ahmad Reza Jalali and end their shocking assault on his right to life.

A group of 149 Nobel Laureates has signed a letter to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei calling for his release and for the leader to personally “make sure that Dr. Jalali is treated humanely and fairly.”

Jalali, a specialist in emergency medicine, disappeared on April 24, 2016, three days before returning to Sweden, where he was a resident and had worked for several years as a researcher focusing on medical responses to natural disasters in developing countries. A week after his disappearance, he contacted his family and informed them that he had been arrested.

He was then tried and sentenced to death on charges of selling classified information about Iranian nuclear scientists to Israel. The verdict was upheld by the Supreme Court in December 2017, provoking widespread condemnation from scientists, academics and activists around the world.

Iranian authorities also forced Jalali to confess to his crimes in a television broadcast. The program also reported that parts of Jalali's “interview” had been edited out on grounds of security because it related to Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency. Jalali makes no mention of Mossad in the broadcast version of the film.

Before the televised confession and after being handed down the death sentence, Ahmad Reza Jalali stated in an audio file from prison that the charges against him were fabricated and that he had been forced to confess after being tortured, intimidated and threatened. The statement he read out had been prepared by his interrogators, he said.

"He was kept in solitary confinement for three months,” his wife Vida Mehran Nia told IranWire.  “They threatened that if he did not cooperate, they would keep him there until he died and no one would know. They said they would kill his five-year-old son. He was taken out of Evin Prison in the middle of the night blindfolded. They wrote the script and said they would make the video and then release him. They said the video had nothing to do with his case and they needed it for something else.

"Ahmad Reza said if he said a word wrongly, they would shout, insult him, turn off the camera, and start filming again from the beginning."

Over the last two years, Jalali, who has worked in Belgium and Italy as well as Sweden and Iran, has been held in Ward 209 at Evin Prison.

The Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde posted on Twitter that she had spoken to her Iranian counterpart following reports that Jalali's death sentence was due to be carried out. "Sweden condemns the death sentence and is working to ensure that it is not carried out,” she wrote.


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