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   International
Sweden and Iran exchange prisoners in breakthrough deal
  Date : 24-07-2024

online desk : Sweden and Iran carried out a prisoner exchange on Saturday, officials said, with Sweden freeing a former Iranian official convicted for his role in a mass execution in the 1980s while Iran released two Swedes being held there.

The prisoner swap was mediated by Oman, the country`s foreign ministry said in a statement. "Omani efforts resulted in the two sides agreeing on a mutual release, as those released were transferred from Tehran and Stockholm," it said.


Sweden freed former Iranian official Hamid Noury, who had been convicted for his part in a mass execution of political prisoners in Iran in 1988. Iran`s official IRNA news agency published footage of Noury arriving at Tehran`s Mehrabad airport where he was welcomed by his family on a red carpet.

Meanwhile, Swedish citizens Johan Floderus and Saeed Azizi, who had been detained in Iran, were freed and flown back to Sweden where they arrived late on Saturday.

 

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said the pair were in good condition given the circumstances and had been reunited with their families.

"Iran used them both as pawns in a cynical negotiations game with the purpose of getting the Iranian citizen Hamid Noury released from prison in Sweden. He is convicted of serious crimes committed in Iran in the 1980s," Kristersson said in a statement.

"As prime minister I have a special responsibility for Swedish citizens` safety. The government has therefore worked intensively on the issue, together with the Swedish security services which have negotiated with Iran."
WAR CRIMES
Noury, 63, was arrested at a Stockholm airport in 2019 and later sentenced to life in prison for war crimes for the mass execution and torture of political prisoners at the Gohardasht prison in Karaj, Iran, in 1988. He denied the charges.
An Iranian foreign ministry spokesperson described Noury as a hostage in a statement to local media, saying his imprisonment was due to an "illegal Swedish court decision that lacked legitimacy."

 

Noury told reporters his case had been complicated and sensitive. "They said even God cannot free Hamid Noury, but he did," he told reporters on his arrival in Iran.

 

The National Council of Resistance of Iran, a coalition of groups opposed to Iran`s Islamic Republic government, said it appeared Sweden had yielded to blackmail and hostage-taking tactics in a move that would encourage Tehran.

Lawyer Kenneth Lewis, who represented a dozen plaintiffs in the Noury case in Sweden, said his clients were not consulted and were "appalled and devastated" over Noury`s release.
"This is an affront to the entire justice system and everyone who has participated in these trials," he told Reuters.

Lewis said his clients sympathized with the Swedish government`s efforts to get its citizens home but said Noury`s release was "totally disproportionate."
`HELL ON EARTH`
Floderus, a European Union employee, was arrested in Iran in 2022 and charged with spying for Israel and "corruption on earth," a crime that carries the death penalty.

Swedish-Iranian dual national Saeed Azizi was arrested in Iran in November 2023, on what Sweden called "wrongful grounds."

In a late-night news conference, Kristersson appealed for the pair to now be allowed time alone with their families.

"These are two people who have experienced hell on earth," he said. "I understand how this is received with mixed feelings, not least among Swedes who stem from Iran. This was not an easy deliberation the government has had to make, but sometimes you have to do difficult things and do what is right."

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen welcomed the release of the two Swedes from "unjustified Iranian custody" and congratulated Sweden on its work to get them freed.
Another Swedish-Iranian dual national, Ahmadreza Djalali, arrested in 2016, remains in an Iranian jail. An emergency medicine doctor, Djalali was arrested in 2016 while on an academic visit to Iran.

Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom said Iran had refused to even consider Djalali a Swedish citizen after he received citizenship in the Nordic country, where he lived and worked prior to his arrest, while in Iranian prison.

"To Djalali and his family I would like to say that the security services made great efforts for their husband and father to be part of today`s operation," Billstrom said.
"There is no doubt that we will continue to work tirelessly to bring home citizens like Djalali."



  
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