An Iranian professor connected to the Free University of Brussels (VUB) has been sentenced to death in Iran for collaboration with scientists from foreign, “enemy” states.
Iranian authorities detained Ahmadreza Jalali, a scientist at the Research Center in Emergency and Disaster Medicine (CRIMEDIN) run by the University of Eastern Piedmont in Novara, Italy, and the Free University Brussels (VUB), during a visit in April.
The verdict follows warnings by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Mohammad Ali Jafari, the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), the regime’s heavily militarised ideological gatekeepers, of “infiltration” attempts by Iran’s enemies.
It also comes with conservative opponents in Iran of a possible thaw with the West seemingly eager to project strength to their critics at home and abroad.
Jalali had traveled to Iran to attend a scientific workshop based on an official invitation from an Iranian university. He has been refusing to eat since December 26 to protest his arrest and the charges, and he seems to be in poor mental and physical condition.
Rights advocates have long accused Iranian courts of issuing politically motivated sentences. Trial proceedings, often held behind closed doors, can last only a few minutes, and charges and even verdicts are routinely left to public speculation rather than informing defence teams or family of pending charges.
Djalali told his sister that he had been forced to sign a confession, for which he will receive the death penalty. The Iranian government is calling it a matter of national security.
A spokesperson for foreign minister Didier Reynders said he would make contact with the diplomatic representation of the EU in Tehran to see what steps can be taken.
The espionage charges against Jalali have been dismissed as nonsense by his colleagues.
A number of dual nationals have been arrested in Iran and charged with security offences amid what appears to be a power bid by hard-liners eager to tie the hands of reformist President Hassan Rohani and undermine the potential for less frosty ties with the U.S. and Western countries.
They include Iranian-American business Siamak Namazi and his 80-year-old father, Bagher Namazi, each of whom was sentenced to 10 years in prison for alleged cooperation with the United States.