The case of Johan Floderus, kept under wraps for more than a year, has become part of Iran’s “hostage diplomacy” as Tehran seeks concessions from the West.
A Swedish citizen working for the European Union diplomatic corps has been imprisoned in Iran for more than 500 days, making him an important bargaining chip for Tehran as it tries to wring concessions from the West.
The arrest, which has been kept under wraps for over a year by the Swedish and European Union authorities, appears to be part of an expanding pattern of what has become known as Iran’s “hostage diplomacy.”
Tehran has been opportunistically scooping up dual Iranian nationals and foreigners on spurious charges, seeking to trade them for Iranians held in Europe or the United States, or to use them as leverage to extract money and other concessions.
Last month the United States concluded a deal with Iran to free five Americans held there in exchange for $6 billion in withheld Iranian oil revenues as well as the release of Iranian prisoners in America.
Still, this latest case, the details of which have not been previously reported, stands out for the prisoner’s professional background as a European official. The man, Johan Floderus, 33, a native of Sweden, has held several positions in the European Union’s institutions, coming up through its civil service traineeship program. He was even featured in an advertising campaign to attract young Swedes to European Union careers.
Mr. Floderus visited Iran last spring on what people familiar with the case described as a private tourist trip, together with several Swedish friends. As he prepared to take his flight out of Tehran on April 17, 2022, he was detained at the airport.
In July of last year, the Iranian government released a statement announcing that it had apprehended a Swedish national for espionage. He is now being held in the notorious Evin prison in the Iranian capital.