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Vigil for former Oxford student ‘wrongfully held’ in Iran for more than two years

A vigil will be held for Johan Floderus, a former Oxford student, who has been detained in Iran’s notorious Evin prison for over two years.

Floderus, a Swedish national, graduated from Harris Manchester College in 2014 with a philosophy, politics and economics degree, before working as a diplomat with the European Union’s External Action Service. 

In April 2022, the then 33-year-old was arrested at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport. His arrest was made public more than a year later. Last December, Floderus appeared in an Iranian court, accused of “spreading corruption on earth” – prosecutors are seeking the death penalty. 

The vigil, aimed at “raising awareness of Johan’s plight”, will be held on Saturday 1st June. A silent march is to be held through central Oxford, concluding with a reception at Harris Manchester College. Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who was detained by the Iranian government for six years, will speak, along with friends and family of Floderus.

Conditions in Evin prison, where Floderus is currently held, are notoriously poor. Human rights groups accuse prison guards of arbitrary beatings, humiliating detainees and failing to give injured prisoners access to medical care. Floderus is allowed one short conversation a month with his family. Cell lights are kept on 24 hours a day, and according to his family, Floderus is given neither sufficient food rations nor medical attention.

Floderus’ detainment is seen as part of Iran’s strategy of hostage diplomacy, whereby Western citizens are arbitrarily detained so that their freedom may be leveraged by Tehran for financial or political gain. The European Union has stated that there are “absolutely no grounds for keeping Johan Floderus in detention.”

Zaghari-Ratcliffe was allowed to leave the country in March 2022, the day after the British government settled an outstanding debt of £393.8 million, linked to the pre-revolutionary government’s order of thousands of British tanks which never arrived. In September 2022, the US unfroze £4.8 billion of sanctioned Iranian funds in return for the release of five American prisoners.In July 2022, Hamid Nouri, a former Iranian prison official, was sentenced to life in prison by a Swedish court for crimes against humanity following his involvement in the 1988 mass executions of Iranian prisoners. Nassim Papayaianni, of Amnesty International, has stated that there are “very clear indications that the authorities are holding Floderus hostage to compel the Swedish authorities to swap him for the former Iranian official, Hamid Nouri.”

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