Iranian authorities are committing the crime of hostage-taking against Ahmad Reza Jalali by continuing to keep him in prison and threatening his retaliatory execution, Amnesty International said on Thursday.
Research and analysis by the organization has led it to conclude that as many Iranian civil and human rights activists warned, Dr. Jalali is being held by the Iranian judiciary to solicit a prisoner swap, and to deter third countries from trying to prosecute Iranian officials in future.
The two prisoners Tehran wants back are Asadollah Asadi, a former Iranian diplomat serving a 20-year prison sentence in Belgium for his part in a thwarted 2018 bomb attack in France, and Hamid Nouri, a former prison official on trial in Sweden for his alleged role in Iran's 1988 prison massacre. A judgment in the Nouri case is expected on July 14.
Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty's deputy director for the MENA region, said Jalali was being used "as a pawn in a cruel political game... The authorities are attempting to pervert the course of justice in Sweden and Belgium, and should be investigated for the crime of hostage-taking."
Dr. Jalali, she said, should be immediately released and compensated for the harm he has suffered during six years of incarceration in Evin Prison.
The Law on Hostage-Taking
Every time Iran takes a hostage, it breaches the International Convention Against the Taking of Hostages, which the UN General Assembly adopted in December 1979. The Convention defines hostage-taking as the detention of any person accompanied by threats to kill, injure or continue to detain them, unless certain conditions are met by a third party. It criminalizes the act of hostage-taking by state and non-state actors alike.
Amnesty asserts that regardless of the situation at the time of his arrest, Dr. Jalali has been a hostage since at least November 24, 2020, when hei was moved to solitary confinement and told that his execution would be carried out in a week. The transfer took place days before the trial of Asadollah Asadi was due to start in Belgium.
On May 4 this year, again days after Swedish prosecutors concluded the case against Hamid Nouri and asked for a life sentence for him, Iranian state media - followed quickly by the judiciary - said he would be executed by May 21.
The state-controlled ISNA News Agency also stated: "Analysts say that by executing Ahmad Reza Jalali's sentence, the Iranian government will deprive the Swedish government of the possibility of another similar action." Dr. Jalali's wife Vida Mehrannia said his lawyers were told on May 7 that Sweden had joined forces with Iran's "enemies" by prosecuting Nouri, leaving them with "no option".
Eltahawy added: "Hostage-taking is an offence of grave concern to the international community. If it is established that the Iranian authorities have perpetrated this crime against Ahmad Reza Jalali, all state parties to the Convention Against Taking of Hostages must urgently work together to hold Iran to account."