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Iranian academic sentenced to death for spying for Israel

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An Iranian academic has been sentenced to death after being found guilty of "spying for Israel" against the Islamic Republic.

Judges in Tehran ordered the death penalty for Iranian researcher Ahmadreza Djalali last week after being arrested in April 2016 for the crime of "collaboration with a hostile government".

Djalali who is a resident of Sweden was on a visit to his country of birth when he was arrested by Ministry of Intelligence officials without access to a lawyer for seven months. The medical doctor and university lecturer had studied and taught in Sweden, Italy and Belgium. Since his arrest in April 2016 several European officials have called for his release.

Zeynab Taheri, one of Djalali's lawyers, told Amnesty International that he was sentenced to death for the charge of "corruption on earth", and had been fined €200,000 ($236,195). The court verdict, which was shown to one of the lawyers, states that Djalali worked with the Israeli government, who subsequently helped him obtain his residency permit in Sweden.

Djalali's wife, Vida Mehrannia, said her husband was accused of obtaining money, academic positions and research projects in exchange for spying on Iran for Israel.

The names and positions of the officials was not made public however Dolatabadi did say the list included nuclear engineer Majid Shahriari and physicist Masoud Alimohammadi who were killed in bomb attacks in 2010.

Read: Daughter of judiciary head in Iran is accused of espionage

Details surrounding the trial have raised concerns over the verdict. Iranian authorities have been accused of forcing Djalali to give confessions from his cell in front of a camera by reading pre-written statements. Djalali said that he had been put under intense pressure through psychological torture and threats to execute him and arrest his children in order to force him to "confess" to being a spy for a "hostile government".

Amnesty has called for Djalali's release. Describing the trail as "grossly unfair", the rights group said that "no evidence has ever been presented to show that he is anything other than an academic peacefully pursuing his profession. If he has been convicted and sentenced for peacefully exercising his rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly, including through his academic work, the authorities must immediately and unconditionally release him and drop all charges against him."

Djalali's employers, Karolinska Institute, also released a statement condemning the verdict. "Karolinska Institutet is strongly committed to academic freedom and human rights. All citizens are entitled to due process and a fair trial, and no citizen should be subjected to the death penalty. The death penalty is an act of violence that creates more violence and that is in conflict with human dignity, a wealth of research and all the values our universities stand for," the statement said.

"We ask that Dr Djalali be subjected to due process and fair trial," it added.

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