37 university leaders call on Iran to release Djalali

Rectors, vice-chancellors and presidents of 37 universities and university colleges in Sweden have published an open letter demanding that the Iranian authorities release Ahmadreza Djalali, an Iranian-Swedish specialist in disaster medicine who was sentenced to death in October 2017.

Djalali, based at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute in Stockholm and a visiting professor at Belgium’s Vrije Universiteit Brussel, was arrested while visiting Iran in April 2016.

Iran accused him of ‘spying for Israel’ and he has remained behind bars at Tehran’s Evin Prison since his death sentence, as reported by University World News.

Sweden granted Djalali citizenship in February 2018, it is understood, as a means for the Swedish government to gain more leverage in negotiations with Tehran after Djalali was sentenced to death.

“As rectors, vice-chancellors and presidents of Swedish universities and university colleges, it is part of our tasks to safeguard academic freedom,” the university leaders said in their statement on 29 June.

“We are deeply concerned in the case of Ahmadreza Djalali. The fact that he was arrested, detained and sentenced to death without the consent of a fair trial is an attack not only on him and his family – but also an unacceptable attack on academic freedom, human rights and the rule of law.”

The university leaders said that Djalali has devoted large parts of his adult life to research, knowledge development and knowledge sharing and that at the time of his arrest he was in Iran to give lectures in his field of research on disaster medicine.

“It is our duty to react and act when we see how regimes strike against the very basic academic principles. For us, it is obvious to demand the immediate release of Ahmadreza Djalali. For this demand to lead to concrete results, the world must send clear signals to the Iranian regime,” the university leaders said.

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