Save Ahmad

26th April 2021. Five years have passed since Dr. Ahmadreza Djalali, an esteemed Iranian-Swedish scholar of disaster medicine, was wrongfully imprisoned. To date the evidentiary basis for his arrest, death sentence, and continued detention remains undisclosed.

We, the Karolinska Institutet, the Università del Piemonte Orientale, and the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, were privileged to count Dr. Djalali as a colleague, are once again publicly calling for his immediate release.

Dr. Djalali must be released now. His health is rapidly deteriorating. During his imprisonment, he has been repeatedly denied access to essential medical care, despite evidence that he is suffering from leukaemia. Throughout the pandemic he was held in a cell of about 30 square meters that he shared with fourteen other prisoners, until he was moved on November 24th, 2020, into complete isolation. After over 140 days in solitary confinement, Dr. Djalali was transferred back to a multiple-occupancy cell in Evin prison, where he remains under the constant threat of execution.

Urgent action



Dr Ahmadreza Djalali, an Iranian-born Swedish resident and academic, has been sentenced to death for “corruption on earth” after a grossly unfair trial. His conviction was based on torture-tainted “confessions” that he was forced to make while in solitary confinement without access to his lawyer or family. He is a prisoner of conscience.

The Iranian court verdict alleged that Ahmadreza Djalali had worked as a spy for Israel in the 2000s. According to one of his lawyers, the court produced no evidence to substantiate the claims against him. The court also failed to provide a copy of the verdict and instead summoned one of the lawyers on 21 October 2017 to read the verdict in court.

Ahmadreza Djalali, who has taught in universities in Belgium, Italy, and Sweden was on a business trip to Iran when he was arrested by Ministry of Intelligence officials in April 2016. His family had no knowledge of his whereabouts for 10 days after his arrest. He was held in an unknown location for a week before being transferred to section 209 of Tehran’s Evin prison, where he was held for seven months, three of them in solitary confinement. He has since said that, while in solitary confinement, he was denied access to a lawyer and was forced to make “confessions” in front of a video camera by reading out statements pre-written by his interrogators. He has said that he was put under intense pressure through torture and other ill-treatment, including threats to execute him, his children who live in Sweden, and his elderly mother who lives in Iran, to “confess” to being a spy. He denies the accusations against him and says they have been fabricated by the authorities. In an August 2017 letter written from inside Evin prison, he says he was asked by the Iranian authorities in 2014 to “cooperate with them to identify and gather intelligence from EU states…My answer was ‘no’ and I told them that I am just a scientist, not a spy.”

On 24 October 2017, during his weekly press conference with journalists, the Prosecutor General of Tehran, Abbas Ja’fari Dolat Abadi said, without specifically naming Ahmadreza Djalali, that “the defendant” had held several meetings with [Israeli intelligence agency] Mossad and provided them with sensitive information about Iran’s military and nuclear sites in return for money and residency in Sweden.

In November 2017, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention called on Iran to release Ahmadreza Djalali immediately and accord him an enforceable right to compensation and other reparations, as he had been detained without an arrest warrant, had only been formally charged 10 months after his arrest, and had been “effectively prevented from exercising his right to challenge the lawfulness of his detention”. The Working Group also found that his right to a fair trial had been violated to such a gravity “as to give Mr Djalali’s deprivation of liberty an arbitrary character”.

On 17 December 2017, an Iranian state-run TV station aired Ahmadreza Djalali’s “confession” along with a voiceover presenting him as a “spy”. By extracting and airing these forced “confessions”, Iranian authorities violated Ahmadreza Djalali’s right to the presumption of innocence as well as the right not to be forced into incriminating himself. Since December 2017, his lawyers have filed at least two requests for a judicial review of Ahmadreza Djalali’s case, and both have been rejected.

On 9 December 2018, his lawyers learned that Branch 1 of the Supreme Court had upheld his death sentence without granting them an opportunity to file their defence submissions on his behalf.

In November 2020 Ahmand has been transferred to solitary confinement in and told by the prosecution authorities that his death sentence will be carried out imminently. Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, Diana Eltahawy, stated: “We were horrified to learn that the authorities have instructed the office in charge of implementing sentences to transfer Ahmadreza Djalali to solitary confinement and implement his death sentence no later than a week from 24 November 2020″

Ahmadreza Djalali’s health has significantly deteriorated while in detention and has been aggravated by the hunger strikes he has undertaken.

International human rights bodies have consistently held that it is a violation of the right to life to pass a death sentence after criminal proceedings that violate fair trial guarantees.

Further information:

Marathon for ahmad

To help Ahmad’s cause and spread awareness about his dramatic situation, CRIMEDIM, with the support of the whole Università del Piemonte Orientale, organized for the days 9 and 10 December a Scientific & Academic Marathon that lasted more than 24 hours without any interruption. The speakers were more than 160 from 23 countries in 5 continents.

A few days after, Ahmad was awarded a Scholars at Risk Fellowship at Harvard University, “in recognition of his years of trailblazing expertise in the field of disaster medicine”. Here you can discover more about this important news.

Despite all the efforts, Ahmad is still on death row in Iran. He is still in solitary confinement at risk of execution, that may be carried out at any moment, even if no concrete evidence has been presented in support of the accusations against him. Inevitably, his mental health condition is fragile, even because in the dark about what will happen. We call once again, forcefully, on all actors to save an innocent life

Ahmad's letter from evin prison

Ahmadreza Djalali left Iran in 2008 to study for a PhD at the Karolinska Institute, a medical university, in Sweden. He has worked as a lecturer in Belgium and Italy. He had travelled to Iran in April 2016 to attend university workshops on disaster medicine when he was arrested without a warrant by Ministry of Intelligence officials. His family had no knowledge of his whereabouts until 10 days after his arrest when he was allowed to make a brief telephone call to them. He was held in an unknown location for a week before being transferred to section 209 of Evin prison, which is under the control of the Ministry of Intelligence. Despite repeated interrogations, he was not allowed access to a lawyer until seven months after his arrest when he was moved to Section Seven of Evin prison. He undertook at least two hunger strikes between December 2016 and February 2017 in protest at his detention and denial of access to a lawyer of his choosing.

He was eventually permitted intermittent access to his lawyer until the authorities stopped him from seeing her in February 2017, at which point he resumed the hunger strike he had started in December 2016 that he had stopped only days earlier. He did so after being told by the judge presiding over his case that he was not allowed to have contact with or be represented by his chosen lawyer, whom the judge had separately ordered to withdraw from the case. The judge had already dismissed his first lawyer. Ahmadreza Djalali ended his second hunger strike later that month in February 2017 but was left without legal representation for some time before he was given a court-appointed lawyer. His trial took place over two sessions on 2 August 2017 and 24 September 2017. He has appealed the conviction and sentence.

In the letter Ahmadreza Djalali wrote from prison, he said that, in 2014, Iranian authorities including individuals from the Ministry of Intelligence asked him to identify and gather intelligence from EU states, including on their critical infrastructures, counterterrorism and CBRNE [chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear warfare including terrorism] capabilities, sensitive operational plans, and research projects related to terrorism and crisis. He refused, saying “If you ask me to [spy], I would rather stop my cooperation with Iran. The [individuals then] asked me to forget that meeting and the offer, and ensured me there would not be any problem for me and I should continue my cooperation with Iran’s academic centres…[In 2016] during my academic trip to Tehran, I was suddenly detained by the Ministry of Intelligence and accused of acting against national security. They told me ‘you have gathered…secret data about Iran’s critical infrastructures, crisis management and passive [defence] systems and projects, and have transferred them to Israel.’ They accused me of being the spy of Israel since 2008 and told me ‘all your PhD studying and post-doc fellow processes, and the visa and residency… in EU (Sweden and Italy) have been arranged and offered by Israel…in exchange for your spying services for them.’ I rejected the accusation…and emphasized that all processes as well as the residency have been legally conducted by the universities. I have never had relationships and cooperation with any Intelligence services, not from Israel or any other country. I have never travelled to Israel…Dozens of professors and researchers in Sweden and Italy are available [for] contact, who are fully informed about my daily activities… The investigators from the Ministry of Intelligence did not care what I explained. They detained me in [a solitary confinement cell in Section 209 of Evin prison], using multiple psychological and physical tortures, threats, humiliating, deluding me and also not allowing me to access an attorney until month 7, which made me declare false confessions, and then fabricated a crime file full of lies and groundless accusations, without any documents and reasons. I have never acted against my country, I have never spied for Israel or any other country. My only fault is that I [refused to deceive] the trust of my colleagues and universities in EU to spy for Iran’s intelligence services.”