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Swedish EU diplomat held in Iran for over 500 days — Borrell

September 5, 2023

Iran has repeatedly targeted foreigners and jailed them for espionage. The European Union confirmed that a Swedish diplomat working for the EU has been held in Iran for more than 500 days.

Johan Floderus, an EU official from Sweden
Johan Floderus was seized at the airport in Tehran in April 2022 after visiting Iran with friendImage: rouydad24

The EU's top diplomat Josep Borrell confirmed on Tuesday that Johan Floderus, a 33-year-old Swedish citizen working for the European Union, has been held captive in Iran for over 500 days.

To secure his release, the European Union's diplomatic services "have put the issue on the table relentlessly" in all meetings with Iranian counterparts, Borrell said at an informal meeting of EU development ministers in Cadiz, Spain.

He added that all efforts to secure his release were being coordinated with Stockholm and Floderus's family. "This is very much in our agenda, in our heart and we will not stop until Floderus will be free," Borrell said.

Shortly before Borrell's announcement, Floderus' Swedish family issued a statement. "We, Johan's family, are deeply worried and heartbroken. Johan was detained suddenly and without reason while on vacation and has now been in prison in Iran for more than 500 days," they said.

What happened to Floderus?

The New York Times first reported on Floderus's imprisonment on Monday, describing his detention as hostage diplomacy. The US newspaper said Floderus was seized at the airport in Tehran in April 2022 after visiting the country with friends.

Iran announced in July last year that it had arrested a man on suspicion of espionage, two weeks after an Iranian citizen received a life jail term in Sweden for his role in the Iranian regime's 1988 mass executions of thousands of opponents.

Iran has repeatedly targeted foreigners, imprisoning them on charges of espionage or other violations of national security. Several capitals have accused Iran of practising "hostage diplomacy" — arresting Western nationals to obtain concessions such as the release of detained Iranians.

Silent diplomacy won't work, says Iran prisoner's daughter

Iran's 'hostage diplomacy'

In August, five United States citizens detained in Iran were placed under house arrest with their eventual return to the US linked to the outcome of a negotiation to release Iranian assets worth some €5.6 billion (roughly $6 billion), frozen due to international sanctions.

Earlier this year Iran released two Austrians, a Belgian and a Dane. The release was connected to the transfer of an Iranian diplomat from Belgium to Tehran after he had been convicted on terror charges.

The mediator at the time was the Gulf state of Oman, which has already mediated between Iran and the West on several occasions.

dh/msh (dpa, AFP)