On Oct. 21, Dr. Ahmadreza Djalali, a renowned expert on disaster medicine and resident of Sweden, was sentenced to death by the Iranian Revolutionary Court. Tehran prosecutor Abbas Dolatabadi accused Djalali of providing Mossad with the information about Iran’s nuclear sites that led to the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientists in 2010-2012.

Accusations of working for Israel and the United States are routinely aired in Iranian revolutionary courts with no material evidence provided.

Djalali was born in Tabriz, Iran, in 1971. He received an M.D. from Tabriz University in 1997, was on the faculty of the Natural Disaster Research Institute, and worked on HAZMAT emergencies for the Ministry of Health of Iran. In 2005-2006 he headed the Disaster Management Section of the Iranian Ministry of Welfare and Social Justice.

In 2008 Djalali moved to Stockholm where he obtained a Ph.D. in disaster medicine from Karolinska Institute in 2012. He settled in Sweden with his wife and two children and held positions at research centers in Belgium and Italy. He published numerous papers in medical journals, frequently gave talks at medical congresses, and was a well-known name among European researchers and practitioners of disaster medicine.

During that time he continued academic visits of Iran, worked for Red Crescent, and served as a coordinator of the Iranian National Center for e-Learning and Simulations in Medical Response to HAZMAT. A source close to Djalali revealed that in 2014 he was approached by agents of the Iranian military intelligence that asked him to collect information on Western chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear sites, as well as on critical infrastructures and counter-terrorism operational plans. Djalali refused.

In 2016 he was invited to participate in a scientific workshop in his field held in Iran. On April 25, 2016, he was on his way from Tehran to Karaj when he was detained by the security forces of the Ministry of Information and taken to Evin prison. At the time of his arrest he was a principal investigator on the European Project on Threat Identification and Emergency Response and on the European Project on Terrorist attacks on Hospitals: Risk and Emergency Assessment Tools.

For three months Djalali was kept in a solitary confinement, interrogated daily with no lawyer present, and tortured to extract false confessions. Later he was placed in an 80 sq. ft. cell with three other prisoners. He was not allowed to speak with a lawyer. In December 2016 he began a hunger strike. It lasted 42 days. In February 2017 he started another hunger strike that lasted 43 days. His health has deteriorated. In July 2017 he was taken to a solitary confinement to prevent his contact with ambassadors from European countries that came to visit him in Evin prison.

Numerous professional societies, national science academies, health and human rights organizations, political leaders appealed to the leaders of Iran on behalf of Djalali. No response was ever received. Two closed trial sessions took place on August 22 and September 24 in the Islamic Revolutionary Court of Judge Abolqasem Salavati, who is known to human rights organizations for being an instrument of Iran’s security apparatus. On October 21, Judge Salavati informed Djalali’s lawyer that he sentenced his client to death. The lawyer was given 20 days to appeal the sentence.

The case of Dr. Ahmadreza Djalali is the most horrific among recent cases of scientists accused by Iran of “collaboration with a hostile government”. In 2011 Omid Kokabee, a doctoral student at the University of Texas – Austin, was arrested during a family visit to Iran and sentenced to 10 years in prison by Judge Salavati after he refused to work for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran. He was released in 2016 after developing kidney cancer in Evin prison. Princeton doctoral student Xiyue Wang, who went to Iran to study ancient manuscripts, was arrested in August 2016, accused of spying for the United States, and sentenced to 10 years in prison in July 2017.

Eugene M. Chudnovsky is a Distinguished Professor at the City University of New York and Co-Chair of the Committee of Concerned Scientists.

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