The European Union has confirmed that a Swedish man working for its diplomatic service has been detained in Iran for more than 500 days and vowed to work “relentlessly” to secure his release.
Johan Floderus, a 33-year-old official based in Brussels, was arrested in Tehran in April 2022 while on holiday.
Iran announced three months later that it had arrested a Swedish national on espionage charges but did not name him.
His identity was also kept secret by the EU and Sweden’s government.
But on Monday it was revealed in a report by the New York Times.
The Swedish foreign ministry subsequently confirmed that a Swedish citizen in his 30s had been “arbitrarily deprived of his freedom” and urged Iranian authorities to release him. It said it could not go into any more detail because doing so “would complicate the handling of the case”.
As he arrived at a meeting in the Spanish city of Cadiz on Tuesday, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told reporters that Mr Floderus was indeed the Swedish national detained by Iran and that he worked for the European External Action Service (EEAS).
“I want to stress that I personally, all my team, at all levels, European institutions in close co-ordination with the Swedish authorities – which have the first responsibility of consular protection – and with his family, have been pushing the Iranian authorities to release him,” he said.
“Every time we had diplomatic meetings, at all levels, we have put the issue on the table. Relentlessly, we have been working for the freedom of Mr Floderus and we will continue doing that.”
Mr Floderus’s family meanwhile said in a statement published by the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet that they were “deeply worried and heartbroken”.
The New York Times cited people familiar with the case as saying that Mr Floderus worked for the EEAS’s Afghanistan delegation.
He had visited Iran previously on official EU business without incident but was detained after going on holiday there with Swedish friends, they added.
Mr Floderus is believed to be held at Tehran’s Evin prison along with several other foreign nationals and Iranians with dual nationality or foreign permanent residency.
They include Ahmadreza Djalali, an Iranian-Swedish specialist in emergency medicine who was arrested in 2016 and sentenced to death the following year after being convicted of “corruption on Earth”.
Djalali’s family and human rights groups have said Iran is holding him as a “hostage” in an attempt to negotiate a swap for former Iranian judiciary official Hamid Nouri, who is serving a life sentence in Sweden.
Nouri was tried by a Swedish court under the principle of universal jurisdiction and found guilty in July 2022 of war crimes over what prosecutors said was his leading role in the mass executions of Iranian opposition supporters in 1988.
Iran’s announcement of Mr Floderus’s arrest came only two weeks after Nouri’s conviction, and Swedish media have speculated that he is also being held to put pressure on Sweden.
Earlier this year, four Europeans were released by Iran in exchange for an Iranian diplomat jailed in Belgium over a bomb plot.
One of them, Danish travel vlogger Thomas Kjems, told Swedish Television (SVT) that he spent eight months at Evin prison with Mr Floderus and that he had seemed “in physically and mentally good shape” when he last saw him.