The wife of an Iranian-Swedish medical doctor sentenced to death in Iran for alleged espionage says senior officials have delayed her husband's transfer to a prison where he could have faced imminent execution, following a wave of international appeals to spare his life.
Speaking to VOA Persian from her home in Sweden on Wednesday, Vida Mehran Nia cited her Iran-based lawyer, Haleh Mousavian, as saying senior Iranian officials had called off a judiciary order to transfer her husband, Ahmad Reza Jalali, from Tehran’s Evin prison to Karaj’s Rajaei Shahr prison by 5 p.m. Iran time on Tuesday.
The identities of the officials who purportedly called off the prison transfer were not known, and VOA could not independently verify the delay, as it is barred from reporting inside Iran.
Mehran Nia said the lawyer told her that Jalali’s transfer to Rajaei Shahr would be postponed for several days.
In an earlier interview Tuesday with VOA, Mehran Nia said she had expected Jalali’s transfer to happen that day and feared his execution would soon follow, based on a previous update she received from the lawyer.
She also said the last direct contact she had with Jalali was a November 24 phone call in which he told her of the transfer to Rajaei Shahr.
Iran detained Jalali, a disaster medicine researcher who had relocated to Sweden, in April 2016 when he returned to the Iranian capital for a scientific conference at the invitation of Tehran University. Authorities accused him of collaborating with hostile foreign governments and sentenced him to death in October 2017.
Two months later, Iranian state TV aired a video of Jalali seemingly confessing to giving information to Israel’s Mossad spy agency about Iranian military and nuclear scientists, two of whom were assassinated in 2010. Iran considers Israel to be its arch foe.
But in a voice recording made by Jalali in prison and later posted on YouTube, he said his interrogators had forced him to make the confession. Sweden granted him citizenship in February 2018 to try to persuade Iran to commute his death sentence and release him.
Since Mehran Nia reported last week that Jalali was put on one week’s notice for a potential execution, there has been an outpouring of social media appeals for Iran to spare his life. The appeals have come from Iranian and international rights activists, academics who worked with Jalali at universities in Sweden, Belgium and Italy, and European officials.
In a November 24 tweet, Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde said she had spoken with her Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif and was working to ensure Jalali’s death sentence would not be carried out. She also reiterated Sweden’s opposition to the death penalty.
A BBC report published the next day cited Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh as saying Swedish authorities had “incomplete and false" information about Jalali, without elaborating.
In a Zoom briefing on November 25, U.S. Special Representative for Iran Elliott Abrams described Jalali’s treatment as terrible. He also said Iran does not listen to humanitarian appeals and only understands pressure.
“I would hope the Europeans would make (the Iranians) pay a price if they go ahead with this (execution),” Abrams said.