Swedish EU diplomat Johan Floderus freed from Iranian jail in prisoner swap

Johan Floderus, the Swedish EU diplomat held in captivity for two years in Iran, has been freed and is on his way home, the Swedish prime minister announced.

Ulf Kristersson said on Saturday that the Iranian lifer Hamid Noury was being exchanged for Johan Floderus and the Iranian-Swedish citizen Saeed Azizi.

His release comes months after Floderus’s father said they had expected the death sentence or life imprisonment after he was charged with spying, despite the protests by the EU, the Swedish government and his family, all of whom said the allegations were fabricated.

Azizi’s five-year prison term on national security charges was upheld earlier this year.

In a video posted on X, Kristersson said, “Iran has made these Swedes pawns in a cynical negotiation game with the aim of getting the Iranian citizen Hamid Noury released from Sweden.”

Noury was sentenced to life in Sweden for his role surrounding the death of thousands of political prisoners as deputy prosecutor of Gohardasht prison near Tehran, which many think prompted the detention of Floderus as he was leaving the country in 2022.

“It has been clear all along that this operation would require difficult decisions,” said the Swedish prime minister.

Ylva Johansson, the Swedish EU commissioner in whose team Floderus has worked, said: “Johan is finally free, after more than two years wrongfully imprisoned in an Iranian jail. I am so so, so happy. I am happy for Johan, for his family and his friends

“Every day, in these last two years, Johan has been in our minds and our hearts. We spoke about him every day and now we are just all so relieved and happy to finally be able to say: ‘Johan, welcome home’,” she added.

In a statement, the EU said the 33-year-old, who had worked on the Afghanistan desk of the EU’s external services department, was “on his way home” from the notorious Evin prison, where his family said he had been detained under inhumane conditions.

The European Commission’s president, Ursula von der Leyen, said she was “delighted” and congratulated Sweden for its “persistent” efforts to get Floderus released.

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Delighted at the news that our Swedish colleague Johan Floderus and his compatriot Saeed Azizi have been released from unjustified Iranian custody.

I wish them a good reunion with their loved ones.

Congratulations to Sweden for its persistent work to achieve this outcome.

&mdash; Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) June 15, 2024

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Delighted at the news that our Swedish colleague Johan Floderus and his compatriot Saeed Azizi have been released from unjustified Iranian custody.

I wish them a good reunion with their loved ones.

Congratulations to Sweden for its persistent work to achieve this outcome.

— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) June 15, 2024

On Saturday, the entire family were heading to the airport.

Floderus, an Oxford, Soas University of London and Uppsala University graduate, was detained on 17 April 2022 at Tehran airport after visiting a friend working for the Swedish embassy in Iran. He had been in the country several times on joint EU-Iran programmes to support Afghan adults and children fleeing the Taliban.

His identity came to light only in September after his family conceded their “silent diplomacy” was not working.

In December, Floderus was charged with “very extensive intelligence cooperation with the Zionist occupation regime” and “corruption on Earth”. The family learned last month that prosecutors were seeking the death penalty in the case and believed a sentence could be handed down as early as Sunday.

The Guardian