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It’s been 600 days since Swedish citizen and European Union official Johan Floderus was detained by Iranian authorities.

Johan Floderus, Sweden. © Private

The 33-year-old Swedish citizen was arrested on April 17, 2022, at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport, as he was returning home from a trip with friends. He’s being held in Iran's Evin prison, accused of espionage without formal charges. His prolonged detention follows a pattern of arbitrary detentions of dual and foreign nationals used as bargaining chips, or effectively hostages, in Iran’s diplomatic disputes. He should be released immediately, and Swedish authorities should do more to ensure that happens.

Floderus’s case was not revealed publicly at first while the Swedish government and the EU worked quietly behind the scenes for his release. In September, the Floderus family broke the silence and called for intensified efforts to secure his release. According to his family, prison authorities have subjected Floderus to various abuses, including 24-hour cell light that impacts sleep, inadequate food provisions, no medical examinations, and restrictions on fresh air and sunlight. He was allowed to call his family only after he undertook repeated hunger strikes. He is being held alongside several other foreign nationals and Iranians with permanent foreign residency.

Since 2016, Ahmedreza Djalali, an Iranian academic with Swedish permanent residency, has also been detained in Iran and sentenced to death on espionage charges. In November 2017, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention said his continued detention was arbitrary and called for his release.

Standard diplomatic interventions to free citizens wrongfully detained by the Iranian authorities have largely proven ineffective. Sweden and the EU should combine behind-the-scenes efforts with public initiatives, such as the European Parliament's resolution on November 22 advocating for the immediate release of Floderus, Djalali, and all European citizens arbitrary detained in Iran.

The immediate and unconditional release of Floderus and others arbitrary detained should be a top priority for Sweden as well as for the EU in relations with Iran. Sweden should push the EU to work with allies to press harder for their release and for respect of human rights in Iran. The international community should urge Iran to end arbitrary detentions and abide by its international human rights obligations.

Johan Floderus appears to have become yet another victim of Iran's alarming pattern of taking foreign nationals hostage for political purposes. He, alongside all others wrongfully detained in Iran’s flawed justice system, should be immediately released.

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