Family of Swede detained in Iran calls for international support

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - The family of a Swedish EU employee detained in Iran have urged the international community to help secure his release after over 500 days of incarceration for alleged spying, his family said on Sunday.

The European Union's top diplomat Josep Borrell said on Tuesday that Johan Floderus' imprisonment had been raised repeatedly with authorities in the Islamic Republic.

"The family, friends, and supporters of Johan are calling for urgent international attention to secure his immediate release and safe return to Europe," the family wrote on a weabite dedicated to his release, on his 33rd birthday.

They said Floderus was being held without formal charges at Tehran's Evin prison, where political prisoners and many detainees facing security charges, including Iranians with dual nationality, are jailed.

His family said Floderus had travelled throughout the Middle East to study languages, explore historic sites and to support humanitarian cooperation projects in Iran on behalf of the EU, and was arrested in April 2022 before leaving the country.

"His needs for adequate food rations, outside walks, medical checkups and much more are not respected (in jail)," his family wrote, adding that he had been denied "communicating" with Sweden's embassy in Tehran, except a few consular visits.

They said that starting in February 2023 Floderus was restricted to making short phone calls once a month.

"He had to go on hunger strike to be allowed to make several of these calls, which have to be in English and monitored."

For years, Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards have arrested dozens of dual nationals and foreigners, mostly on espionage and security-related charges.

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 denies holding people for political reasons.

Relations between Stockholm and Tehran 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 Iran in the 1980s. He was sentenced to life in prison last year, prompting Iran to recall its envoy to Sweden in protest.

(Reporting by Marie Mannes in Stockholm; editing by Mark Heinrich)