The wife of an Iranian Swedish doctor sentenced to death in Iran for collaborating with a hostile government has provided new details of how her husband’s health has worsened sharply in detention.
In a Wednesday phone interview with VOA Persian from her home in Sweden, Vida Mehran Nia said her husband, Ahmad Reza Jalali, a detainee at Tehran’s Evin prison, recently underwent a botched surgery for a hernia, began suffering from anemia, and has lost a lot of weight.
Iranian authorities arrested Jalali, a disaster medicine specialist who had been working at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, as he visited Iran’s capital at the University of Tehran’s invitation in April 2016.
A court sentenced him to death in October 2017 for “collaborating with a hostile government,” a sentence that Iran’s Supreme Court upheld two months later, but that also remains under review as his lawyer repeatedly has tried to appeal it.
Rushed to hospital
Mehran Nia said that Evin prison authorities rushed Jalali to Tehran’s Taleghani hospital, Nov. 18, 2018, for surgery to treat a hernia, but sent him back to prison the next day before his stitches had properly healed, leaving him in need of another surgery.
She said recent blood tests also have shown that Jalali has been suffering from anemia, a condition for which a specialist recommended he receive additional hospital treatment that so far has been denied.
In a further sign of Jalali’s worsening health, Mehran Nia said he has lost 30 kilograms from his original weight of 81 kg. She told VOA Persian that she has been in regular phone contact with her jailed husband and his lawyer. But she said neither she nor their two children have been able to see him since he traveled to Iran in 2016.
There has been no comment about Jalali’s case in Iranian state media in recent months.
Nobel laureates protest
A group of 121 Nobel laureates wrote an open letter to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in December, saying they had heard that Jalali’s medical condition was “declining rapidly.”
The laureates, led by British molecular biologist Richard Roberts, appealed to Khamenei to ensure that Jalali is treated “humanely and fairly” and released as soon as possible.
Iranian state television broadcast a purported confession from Jalali in December 2017, days after Iran’s top court upheld his death sentence. In the Dec. 17, 2017, broadcast, Jalali said he had supplied information to a foreign intelligence service about Iranian nuclear scientists who later were assassinated. But Jalali disavowed the confession in an audio recording made in prison and shared with international media two days after the broadcast. In the recording, whose authenticity was verified by his family, Jalali said he had confessed under duress.
Sweden granted citizenship to the detained Jalali, who had lived in the European nation since 2009, in February 2018. Iran protested the move as unfriendly.
‘His life is at stake’
In her VOA Persian interview, Mehran Nia said the Swedish ambassador in Tehran repeatedly has asked Iranian authorities for consular access to Jalali but has been denied.
“His life is at stake,” she said. “He desperately needs medical treatment.”
This article originated in VOA’s Persian service.