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Swedish SAR engaged in the case of the Swedish-Iranian researcher Djalali, sentenced to death in Iran

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Since 2016, the Swedish-Iranian researcher Ahmadreza Djalali has been imprisoned in Iran, accused of espionage. The international network Scholars at Risk, whose Swedish section is coordinated by the University of Gothenburg, is working to get him released.

Scholars at Risk (SAR) is an international network that works to protect academic freedom and provide protection for at-risk researchers. Over 500 higher education institutions, 21 of which are in Sweden, are members of the network. The Swedish section, SAR-Sweden, has been coordinated from the University of Gothenburg since 2016.

Ahmadreza Djalali was arrested and accused of espionage during a research trip to Iran in 2016. In 2017, he was sentenced to death. Ahmadreza Djalali has consistently pleaded not guilty to the charges, saying his links to the international research sector were the real reason for the prosecution. Scholars at Risk have since condemned Iran's actions and demanded the release of Ahmadreza Djalali.

“Free research is the cornerstone of the universities' activities. That a researcher is imprisoned and sentenced to death on loose grounds is very serious,” says Karolina Catoni, Deputy Head of the International Center at the University of Gothenburg and coordinator of the Swedish section of Scholars at Risk, SAR-Sweden.

Implementation of the death penalty

On Tuesday morning, Amnesty in Sweden received information that Ahmadreza Djalali had been transferred to solitary confinement, and that, according to UN experts, his lawyer had been informed of the implementation of the death penalty to be executed no later than one week after November 24th 2020.

Ever since, intensive work has been carried out within SAR-Sweden for the release of Ahmadreza Djalali.

“We do everything in our power to, together with human rights organizations, universities and governmental representatives, influence Iran to release Ahmadreza Djalali. We hope that the diplomatic process conducted from Swedish, European and international sides has effect,” says Karolina Catoni.

Ahmadreza Djalali is a researcher in disaster medicine with connections to several European universities, including Karolinska Institutet. At the time of his imprisonment, he was a resident of Sweden, and he has been a Swedish citizen since 2018.

Eva Wiberg, Vice-Chancellor at the University of Gothenburg, is upset by the imminent death sentence.

“The Djalali case is engaging and clearly shows that Scholars at Risk has an important role to play by protecting academic freedom,” says Vice-Chancellor Eva Wiberg.

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Facts about SAR

Scholars at Risk (SAR) is an international network working to safe-guard academic freedom and provide protection for at-risk researchers. Over 500 universities are members of Scholars at Risk. In Sweden, 21 Swedish higher education institutions are members of the network. The Royal Swedish Academy of Letters, History and Antiquities are associate member of SAR. Together, the Swedish higher education institutions form the Swedish section of Scholars at Risk, SAR-Sweden. Since 2016 SAR-Sweden has been coordinated from the University of Gothenburg.

The University of Gothenburg has been a member of the international network since 2013. Central funding is allocated annually for the hosting of scholars. The University of Gothenburg has so far hosted six SAR-scholars. Last week, an expression of interest to host a SAR-scholar was sent to all departments.