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European university professor sentenced to death in Iran for ‘espionage’

A scientist working at two European universities has been sentenced to death without trial for espionage charges while visiting family in Iran, according to his family and co-workers. Ahmadreza Djalali, 45, a professor and researcher of disaster medicine at the Research Center in Emergency and Disaster Medicine (CRIMEDIN) at the University of Eastern Piedmont in Novara, Italy and the Free University Brussels (VUB) was arrested in April 2016 when he returned to his native country. He is now scheduled to be executed in two weeks, his family has confirmed. According to De Morgen, a Belgian-based publication, Djalali reported to his sister that he had been forced to sign a confession with consequences leading to the death penalty. The contents of the confession are unknown. Similar to other cases involving Iranian nationals working abroad, Djalali, who had been held without any charges has now been accused of espionage and threatening national security by collaborating with foreign enemy states. Since his arrest, Djalali has been kept in solitary confinement and has not had access to a lawyer, according to his colleagues. "Ahmadreza is passionate about science," said Ives Hubloue, the head of VUB's Research Group on Emergency and Disaster Medicine. "He's not interested in politics. We don't believe he would do anything at all" to undermine the Iranian government. Hubloue did point out, however, that Djalali in fact corresponded with colleagues in countries that Iran considers enemy states, such as Israel. According to Hubloue, the interactions between the individuals were entirely research related. At first, Djalali’s family kept news about his arrest quiet for fear of backlash against his case, but since hearing about his execution notice, they have decided to speak out. “A scientist performing important humanitarian work, gets sentenced without public trial and is looking at the death penalty,” VUB director Caroline Pauwels said. “This is an outrageous violation of universal human rights, against which we should react decisively.” A Facebook page and a petition have been set up to raise awareness about Djalali’s case using the hashtag #SaveAhmad.
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