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Sweden-Iran prisoner swap frees EU diplomat

June 15, 2024

Swede Johan Floderus, held by Tehran on spying charges, has been released as part of the deal. The exchange also drew criticism in some circles because it included freeing Hamid Nouri, an Iranian convicted of war crimes.

Johan Floderus attends a court session in Tehran on December 10, 2023
Swedish EU diplomat Johan Floderus was arrested in 2022 at Tehran airport as he was returning home from a trip with friendsImage: Amir Abbas Ghasemi/MIZAN NEWS AGENCY/AFP/Getty Images

Sweden and Iran exchanged a European Union diplomat and another man for an Iranian convicted of mass executions in a prisoner swap on Saturday. 

Sweden freed former Iranian official Hamid Nouri, who was sentenced by a Stockholm court in 2022 for committing war crimes connected to mass executions in Iran in 1988.

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said Swedish citizens Johan Floderus and Saeed Azizi, who were detained in Iran, were returning to Sweden.

The prisoner exchange was mediated by Oman.

Hamid Nouri
Hamid Nouri was serving a life sentence in Sweden for his role in mass executions in 1988Image: Mizan

Sweden said Floderus and Azizi wrongfully detained

Floderus, an EU employee, was arrested in Iran in 2022 and charged with spying for Israel and "corruption on earth," for which he faced the death penalty.

Azizi was arrested in November 2023 on what Sweden called "wrongful grounds."

Kristersson said Floderus and Azizi had been facing a "hell on earth."

"Iran has made these Swedes pawns in a cynical negotiation game, with the aim of getting the Iranian citizen Hamid Nouri released from Sweden," Kristersson said Saturday.

"It has been clear all along that this operation would require difficult decisions; now the government has made those decisions," he added.

Another Swedish citizen, the physician Ahmad Resa Jalali, arrested in 2016, is still in an Iranian prison.

EU foreign policy head Josep Borrell welcomed the release of Floderus and Azizi.

"Other EU citizens are still arbitrarily detained in Iran," he wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

"We'll continue to work for their freedom together" with other EU states, he added.

Hamid Nouri convicted for war crimes

Hamid Nouri was sentenced to life in prison in Sweden in July 2022 for the mass execution and torture of political prisoners at the Gohardasht prison in Karaj, Iran, in 1988.

He denied the charges.

"This is an affront to the entire justice system and everyone who has participated in these trials," Kenneth Lewis, who represented a dozen plaintiffs in the Nouri case in Sweden, said.

He said his clients were not consulted and were "appalled and devastated" over Nouri's release.

lo/nm (AP, dpa, Reuters)