Swedish diplomat in notorious Iranian prison for almost a year and a half

Swedish diplomat Johan Floderus has been detained in Iran for a year and a half

A Swedish diplomat has been held in Iran's notorious Evin prison for almost a year and a half. His imprisonment has always been kept secret, but it was revealed yesterday after a report in The New York Times. EU Foreign Affairs Chief Josep Borell confirmed this today.

Johan Floderus, 33, works as a diplomat for the European Union. He was reportedly arrested in the spring of 2022 while vacationing in Iran with a group of friends. When they wanted to go home on April 17, Floderus was arrested at the airport.

A few months later, the Iranian government announced that it had arrested a Swedish national for spying, but neither Iran nor Sweden provided further details.

“We don't know much about this case, especially since both sides have always kept silent,” said Iranian political analyst Negar Mortazavi, from Washington. She adds that this arrest is part of the Iranian strategy of rounding up foreigners and using them as pawns in negotiations with Western countries.

Exchange with an Iranian prisoner

Mortazavi believes the Iranians in this case are after the release of a former Iranian prosecutor held in Sweden. He was sentenced to life in prison last year for his involvement in the mass executions of Iranian political opponents in the 1980s. “The Iranian government has been trying for years, without success, to bring him back to Iran.”

According to Mortazavi, it is therefore no coincidence that the Iranian authorities chose the European diplomat among the group of friends. “The Iranians regard him as an eminent person with whom they could perhaps recover a precious Iranian prisoner.”

The New York Times yesterday announced the Floderus case to the world. The newspaper writes that he has spoken to six people who know about the case, but all wish to remain anonymous.

EU foreign policy chief Borell today said he and his team were working tirelessly for Floderus' release. “We will continue to do so and we will stay in close contact with his family and the Swedish government.”

Since former US President Donald Trump pulled out of the nuclear deal with Iran in May 2018, Iran has stepped up its hostage-taking strategy, Mortazavi says. “Tensions between Iran and the United States – and thus between Iran and US allies – have since increased. America and Iran both want to avoid a military confrontation, so we see these tensions manifest themselves in other ways.”

Belgian aid worker

Last May, Belgian aid worker Olivier Vandecasteele was released after more than a year of detention in Evin prison. In exchange for his return, Belgium released the Iranian terrorist Assadollah Assadi. He was sentenced to twenty years in prison in Belgium in 2021 for his involvement in a foiled attack on a meeting of an Iranian opposition group.

According to Mortazavi, the situation in Sweden is more complicated because the Iranian prisoner held there was convicted of crimes actually committed. “Many Iranian prisoners were executed in the 1980s. The Swedish lawyers I spoke to said there was no chance that Sweden would release this prisoner.”

“Brothers in Sorrow”

Vandecasteele could not be reached today for comment, but during a concert last June in honor of his comeback, he made reference to a Swedish cellmate. “We became brothers in pain. We promised to do everything for each other and that the first released would help the family and loved ones of the other.”

About Evin prison, political analyst Mortazavi says: “Foreign prisoners have been known to spend months in solitary confinement, have little contact with the outside world and suffer psychological torture during interrogation. »