In a letter addressing Iran’s ambassador to the UN, 175 Nobel laureates have called on the country’s authorities to release Iranian-born Swedish resident Ahmadreza Djalali, who says he has been imprisoned in Tehran for refusing to spy for the country’s Intelligence Ministry.
“As members of a group of people (and organizations) who, according to the will of Alfred Nobel are deeply committed to the greatest benefit to mankind, we cannot stay silent, when the life and work of a similarly devoted researcher as Iranian disaster medicine scholar Ahmadreza Djalali is threatened by a death sentence,” said the laureates’ statement, published by the Committee of Concerned Scientists on November 17, 2017.
“While the conditions of his detention and trial have already given reason to great concern, a document based on a handwritten text by Dr. Djalali has now raised the suspicion that it was his refusal to work for the Iranian Intelligence Services, which led to this unfair, flawed trial,” said the statement.
The letter was signed by laureates from the fields of science, medicine, literature and peace, including by South African literature laureate J. M. Coetzee, American medicine laureate J. Michael Bishop, and Iranian peace laureate Shirin Ebadi.
On October 21, 2017, Judge Abolqasem Salavati of Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran sentenced Djalali to death based on the charge of “collaborating with a hostile government,” referring to Israel. Djalali was arrested by agents of Iran’s Intelligence Ministry on April 24, 2016, while visiting the country as a guest scholar after being officially invited by Tehran University.
Prior to receiving his sentence, Djalali had explained in a letter from Evin Prison that he had been detained in Iran because he had repeatedly refused to spy for the country’s intelligence and military establishment.
“During a trip to Iran in 2014, two people from a military center and the Intelligence Ministry met me. They asked me to cooperate with them to recognize and gather information/data (to spy) from the EU states, including their critical infrastructures, counter-terrorism and CBRNE capabilities, sensitive operational plans, and also research projects, relevant to terrorism and crisis. My answer was NO, and I told them that I am just a scientist, not a spy, and my scientific help to Iran’s academic centers comes from my love and commitment to my motherland,” wrote Djalali in the letter, the date of which is unknown.
He added: “They asked me to forget that meeting and the offer, and they assured me that there would not be any problem for me and I should continue my cooperation with Iran’s academic centers.”
Salavati, the judge assigned to Djalali’s case, has presided over many cases involving dual nationals, including Iranian-Americans Amir Hekmati, Saeed Abedini, and Jason Rezaian, who were released in January 2016 in a prisoner swap deal with the United States. Salavati is also the presiding judge in current cases against dual nationals including Iranian-American Siamak Namazi, his father Baquer Namazi, and British-Iranian citizen Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. In all these cases, the victims were held without due process and sentenced to prison terms under vague or unspecified national security charges while being denied due process.
A non-practicing general medicine physician with a post-doctorate degree in emergency and disaster medicine, Djalali had previously traveled without problems to Iran at the invitation of several state organizations, including the Red Crescent Society of the Islamic Republic of Iran.