Iran said on Sunday that it had begun the trial of a Swedish national employed by the European Union who is charged with spying for Israel and “corruption on earth,” a crime that carries the death penalty.
Sweden said on Saturday that the trial had begun of Johan Floderus, who was detained in April 2022 while on holiday in Iran, but did not say what he was charged with.
The Iranian judiciary’s Mizan news agency said in an online report on Sunday that Floderus’s trial had begun and that he was indicted “based on corruption on earth, widespread activities against national security (and) wide intelligence cooperation with the Zionist regime”, a reference to Israel.
Corruption on earth is a capital offence under Iran’s Islamic laws.
“Johan Floderus has been arbitrarily detained and every accusation and charge is false,” a spokesperson for Sweden’s foreign ministry said in an emailed comment to Reuters on Sunday.
“We have conveyed this clearly to Iran at different levels and times, the most recent being yesterday.”
Floderus’ family has said he was detained “without any justifiable cause or due process.”
Rights groups and Western governments have accused the Islamic Republic of trying to extract political concessions from other countries through arrests on security charges that may have been trumped up. Tehran says such arrests are based on its criminal code and it denies holding people for political reasons.
Relations between Sweden and Iran have been tense since 2019 when Sweden arrested a former Iranian official for his part in the mass execution and torture of political prisoners in the 1980s.
The judiciary said Floderus had operated through projects by U.S. and European institutions to gather intelligence for Israel. It said another hearing would be announced at a later date.