Iran’s Supreme Court on February 4 upheld a ruling handing the death penalty to Swedish-Belgian professor Ahmedreza Djalali, an Iranian-born, Swedish-Belgian professor from the Free Universtiy of Brussels (VUB), Djalali’s lawyer Zouhaier Chichaoui confirmed.
Chichaoui said the sentence came after the court delayed its ruling while hearing Djalali’s ultimately unsuccessful appeal.
Iranian authorities detained Djalali, a scientist at the Research Center in Emergency and Disaster Medicine (CRIMEDIN) run by the University of Eastern Piedmont in Novara, Italy, and VUB during a visit in April. Tehran charged Djalali with espionage and ‘enmity with God’ — a crime which in Iran can result in the death penalty. He was later convicted.
On December 25, Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi said the Supreme Court handed gave Djalali the death sentence for allegedly working as an Israeli agent, according to Mizan, the official news site of Iran’s judiciary,
Mizan reported that Dolatabadi said Djalali confessed to meeting with agents from the Mossad – Israeli intelligence – on several occasions to deliver information on Iran’s nuclear programme and military plans, The court also accused Djalali of passing on a crippling computer virus to the Defence Ministry’s computer systems, Mizan reported.
In a broadcast on state-controlled television on December 17, Djalali admitted to supplying information to a foreign intelligence service about Iranian nuclear scientists who were later assassinated.
In an audio recording, however, Djalali later said he made the confession under psychological pressure. International rights groups have condemned Djalali’s arrest, saying it follows a pattern by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, who usually detain dual nationals and expatriates without due process.
An appeal should have been filed within three weeks of his arrest, but it appears that a request was never given to the Supreme Court.
Since Djalali’s conviction, 268,000 people have signed petitions on his behalf. Despite pressure by the scientific and diplomatic communities in Belgium, Sweden and Italy, as well as the head of European diplomacy Federica Mogherini, the Islamic Republic of Iran continues to violate Djalali’s basic individual rights, the university underlines.
Seventy-five Nobel Prize laureates petitioned Iranian authorities last month pleading for Djalali’s release to allow him to return to his scientific work.
According to Nature magazine, he works on improving the emergency response units in hospitals that deal with radiological, chemical, and biological threats.