Ten months without communication with his family. Three hundred days in solitary confinement. A cell that is fully lit around the clock.
These are some of the conditions faced by Johan Floderus, a European Union official from Sweden who was arrested in Iran in April last year and has been held hostage since, his family revealed on Sunday.
Last week The New York Times was the first to report on his incarceration in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison, after EU and Swedish authorities kept him hidden for more than 500 days.
Now the family has gone public, sharing details of Mr. Floderus’ incarceration to raise awareness and support.
On Sunday, Mr. Floderus, who rose through the EU civil service to become a member of the diplomatic corps, aged 33 was in Iranian custody, in what appeared to be another hostage-taking case to force the release of detainees. of Iran or other concessions from the West.
Mr. Floderus’ family said Sunday in a statement that it had begun a public campaign to bring him home, following in the footsteps of families of other foreigners or dual Iranian citizens detained by the government. in recent years.
The family said Mr. Floderus’ rights had been blatantly violated. He is allowed only three and a half hours of fresh air a week, they say, is too limited to receive letters from relatives or send letters and has been given a small visit by Swedish diplomats in Tehran since he was arrested.
“He was allowed to make, on average, one short phone call every month starting in February,” the statement said, adding that Mr. Floderus “had to go on hunger strike to be allowed to make some these calls, which are in English and can be monitored.”
Mr. Floderus’s case is unique because of his professional background, which makes him a high-value prisoner in what experts describe as a vigorous “hostage diplomacy” waged by Iran.
Before joining the European Union’s diplomatic corps, Mr. Floderus traveled to Iran on official bloc business for humanitarian projects, his family said Sunday. He was visiting tourists in April last year when he was arrested at Tehran airport on his way out of the country.
In the only video call Mr. Floderus has been allowed so far, last month, he made a “desperate plea” to his family to step up their efforts for his release, the statement said, adding that Mr. Floderus is not guilty of any wrongdoing. .
The Iranian authorities, in a statement in July 2022, announced that they had arrested a Swedish citizen for espionage and claimed that his previous trip to the country showed that he was there in bad business.
The continued imprisonment of Mr. Floderus in Iran puts the European Union and Sweden in a difficult place, compounded by the fact that they have been hiding it for so long, it seems that no real progress has been made towards his release.
Sweden convicted and imprisoned a high-profile former Iranian judicial official for ordering the deaths of thousands of people in the 1980s, and Swedish-Iranian relations are at a nadir.
Besides Mr. Floderus, Iran has said it plans to kill an Iranian-Swedish scientist, Ahmadreza Djalali, who has been held since 2016 on murky charges of espionage and helping Israel kill nuclear scientists, an accusation he denied in May last year. That month, it killed another Swedish-Iranian, the dissident Habib Chaab, who had lived in Sweden for more than a decade and was abducted during a visit to Turkey in 2020 and smuggled into Iran.
The European Union is trying to revive a nuclear agreement with Iran, and several high-level officials have visited Tehran, throughout Mr. Floderus’s imprisonment. The dynamics and context of these diplomatic exchanges and the ongoing engagement with the Iranian government are now under scrutiny given that an EU employee is imprisoned in Iran.
“I want to emphasize that I personally, all my team at all levels – the European institutions in close coordination with the Swedish authorities, who have the primary responsibility for protecting the consulate – and together with his family, push to the Iranian authorities to release him,” Josep Borrell Fontelles, the EU’s top diplomat, said last week after The New York Times revealed Mr. Floderus’ arrest.
“Every time we have diplomatic meetings, at all levels, we put the issue on the table. Without stopping,” he added.