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Evin Prison in Iran

Photo: Majid Asgaripour / WANA / REUTERS

Almost a year and a half after the arrest of a Swede in Iran, the European Union's External Action Service has confirmed that the detainee is an employee. In close coordination with the Swedish government, we are working at all levels for the release of Johan Floderus, said EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell on the sidelines of a ministerial meeting in Cádiz, Spain. He has been unjustly detained in Iran for about 500 days.

Iranian intelligence had already reported the Swede's arrest last summer, but did not provide any information about his identity. It only said that the person had been arrested on espionage charges after being in the country several times as a tourist. The person had been under surveillance. At the time, the Swedish Foreign Ministry only said in response to a request: "This is an existing consular case that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been working on for some time."

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According to the EU, Floderus was most recently a member of the team responsible for Afghanistan in the Foreign Service. Previously, he worked for the Swedish EU Commissioner Ylva Johansson, among others.

A possible background to the case is the tense relations between Sweden and Iran. Tehran is demanding the release of Hamid N., a national who was sentenced to life imprisonment for participating in mass executions of political prisoners in Iran. In May, Iran's judiciary executed a Swedish-Iranian dissident accused of terrorist activities. Another dual national, the physician Ahmad Reza Jalali, was also sentenced to death in Iran on espionage charges.

A Belgian aid worker imprisoned in Iran was released in May after more than a year through a controversial prisoner exchange. In return, Iranian diplomat Assadollah Assadi, convicted on terrorism charges, was released. Shortly thereafter, Iran also released Austrian-Iranian citizens Kamran Ghaderi and Massoud Mossaheb as well as a Danish citizen – according to officially unconfirmed information as part of the deal between Belgium and Iran.