Iran, Sweden complete prisoner swap

Iran and Sweden announced a prisoner swap on Saturday, with the release of two Swedes, including a European Union diplomat, and a former senior Iranian official.

The released prisoners were to return to their country, via Muscat, the capital of the Sultanate of Oman, which served as an intermediary in negotiations between Stockholm and Tehran, according to the Omani news agency ONA.

The swap comes three days after the release of Frenchman Louis Arnaud, who has been detained in Iran since September 2022.

Tehran is still holding eight European citizens. Their supporters claim their innocence and NGOs consider them to be “hostages” used to obtain the release of Iranians detained abroad. Iran claims they are being held under a court order.

Sweden has announced the release of Johan Floderus, an EU diplomat detained in Iran since April 2022 on espionage charges and facing the death penalty, and Saeed Azizi, who was arrested in November 2023.

They are on the plane “and will finally be reunited with their loved ones” in Sweden, Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said.

He did not disclose the conditions of the exchange but described his country’s decisions as “difficult”.

After his release, Johan Floderus’ father, Matts Floderus, told Swedish news agency TT that the family “was of course very happy”.

  • “Shameful chapter” –

In Tehran, the head of Iran’s High Council for Human Rights, Kazem Gharibabadi, announced almost simultaneously the release of Hamid Noury, a former senior official in the prison administration.

“Noury, who has been illegally detained in Sweden since 2019, is free,” he said.

The 63-year-old Iranian was arrested in Stockholm in 2019 and sentenced to life in prison for his role in the mass executions of opponents ordered by Tehran in 1988.

Hamid Noury ​​arrived at Tehran airport late in the afternoon, where he was greeted by family members and officials, including Mr. Gharibabadi, according to images on state television.

He thanked Iranian officials and people for his release, and called the People’s Mujahedin of Iran (MEK), an opposition movement in exile banned in Iran, “traitors who sold their country.”

In Paris, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI, the political showcase of the People’s Mujahedin), considered Hamid Noury’s release “shameful and unjustifiable.”

For Mahmood Amiry Moghaddam, director of the Norway-based NGO Iran Human Rights (IHR), Mr. Noury’s release “marks a shameful chapter in the history of the Swedish government.”

  • “Pawns” –

According to Iranian Foreign Affairs spokesman Nasser Kanani, Noury’s release underlines “the power of Iranian diplomacy (…)”.

The prisoners’ case has seriously strained relations between Sweden and Iran in recent years, which demanded Hamid Noury’s release and criticized a biased trial.

Mr. Noury ​​was arrested in 2019 at Stockholm airport, where Iranian opponents claim to have lured him to allow his arrest, made possible by the extraterritoriality of the most serious crimes under Swedish law.

He was sentenced in July 2022 to life in prison for “aggravated crimes against international law” and “murder”, a first in the world for such acts.

Human rights groups estimate that at least 5,000 prisoners were executed in Iran in the summer of 1988 in sentences handed down one after the other by “death committees”.

“After 1,680 days of captivity, the efforts of our efficient and zealous leaders have paid off,” the former detainee’s son, Majid Noury, said on X.

According to Ulf Kristersson, Tehran had made Floderus and Azizi “pawns in a cynical negotiation game, with the aim of freeing Hamid Noury”.

Mr. Floderus was arrested on April 17, 2022 at Tehran airport as he was returning home from a trip to Iran. He was charged with “corruption on earth”, one of the most serious offenses in Iran and punishable by death, for allegedly conspiring with Israel, Tehran’s sworn enemy.

European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen and EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell welcomed his release.

This article is originally published on notretemps.com

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