An Iranian-Swedish academic sentenced to death in Iran on espionage charges has dismissed a confession aired on Iranian TV as false, saying it was coerced, RFERL reports. Ahmadreza Djalali, a researcher at Stockholm’s Karolinska Institute, said in an audio recording that authorities forced him into making a confession by promising to release him.
Iran has a record of airing forced televised confessions of political detainees. Several of the detainees have said following their release that they were forced to confess under duress.
In the 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 the audio recording, Djalali said he made the confession under psychological pressure.
His family confirmed the authenticity of the audio recording in a December 19 interview with the BBC and said that he made the recording inside the prison.
Djalali, 46, was arrested in April 2016 and later convicted of espionage. He and his family have denied the charges. Rights groups have condemned Djalali’s arrest, saying it follows a pattern of Iran detaining dual nationals and expatriates without due process.
Iranian state television broadcast on Sunday what it described as the confessions of an Iranian academic with Swedish residency who it said had provided information to Israel to help it assassinate several senior nuclear scientists. His wife, speaking by telephone from Stockholm, said he had been forced by his interrogators to read the confession.
In the television report, Djalali was linked to the assassination of four Iranian scientists between 2010 and 2012 that Tehran said was an Israeli attempt to sabotage its nuclear energy program. Djalali said in the report that he had given the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad information about key nuclear scientists.
”They were showing me pictures of some people or satellite photos of nuclear facilities and were asking me to give them information about that,” Djalali said in the television report.
The film said Djalali had agreed to cooperate with Israel in return for money and residency of a European country. The film also contained interviews with Majid Jamali Fashi, an Iranian athlete who was hanged in 2012 over the killings of the nuclear scientists. Djalali is the second person found guilty in the same case.
Sweden has condemned the death verdict against Djalali and said it had raised the matter with Iranian envoys in Stockholm and Tehran. Seventy-five Nobel prize laureates petitioned Iranian authorities last month to release Djalali so he could “continue his scholarly work for the benefit of mankind”. They said Djalali has suggested it was his refusal to work for Iranian intelligence services that led to this “unfair, flawed trial”.
The United Nations and international human rights organizations regularly list Iran as a country with one of the world’s highest execution rates.