Iran arrests French couple and threatens to execute Swedish-Iranian | Iran

Iranian authorities have arrested a French teaching union official and her husband and threatened to execute a Swedish-Iranian man who has been held in jail for six years by 21 May, in fresh moves against foreign and dual nationals.

The threat to execute Ahmadreza Djalali, a scientist, is widely seen as a reprisal for Sweden starting the trial in Stockholm of Hamid Nouri, who is accused of war crimes and murder committed during and after the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s.

The trial of Nouri, arrested in 2019 on a trip to Sweden, is seen as unprecedented. Iran claims the two cases are not related and says Djalali’s death sentence will not be rescinded.

The French foreign ministry has demanded the immediate release of Cécile Kohler and her husband, who were arrested as they prepared to leave Tehran for Paris on 7 May after a holiday in Iran. Iranian authorities have accused her of “attempting to create political chaos” by allegedly associating with representatives of the Iranian Teachers Trade Association during her visit.

The ministry has summoned the Iranian charge d’affaires in Paris to demand consular access to the couple. There are now four French nationals in Iranian jails.

Days after Kohler and her husband were arrested the EU’s chief negotiator, Enrique Mora, landed in Tehran to try to revive the Vienna-based talks on the Iran nuclear deal. Those talks have ground to an effective standstill over whether the US is willing to lift sanctions against the Revolutionary Guards.

Activists say Iran is engaged in a brazen policy of taking foreigners hostage to extract concessions from the west. Iran denies any such policy and insists all foreigners are tried according to due legal process. However it has repeatedly shown a willingness to exchange prisoners and taken part in swaps in the past.

Djalali was arrested in Tehran and charged with spying after a university invited him to attend a workshop. He has been threatened with execution before, but his wife, Vida Mehrannia, has lobbied hard to keep him alive. She says she might be prepared to see her husband swapped for someone the Iranians want released, but not for Nouri – the only swap the Iranians are likely to accept.

Djalali says he was forced to give a false confession under torture and threats, and his family vehemently deny the spying charge against him.

Nouri has been charged with international war crimes and human rights abuses in connection with the murders of more than 100 people at the Gohardasht prison in Karaj. His trial is taking place under the principle of universal jurisdiction.

The latest repression shows the continuing power of Hossein Taeb, the head of the Revolutionary Guards’ intelligence, and the seeming lack of influence of Iran’s foreign ministry.

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