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VUB supports jailed Iranian professor ahead of court hearing

19:04 02/08/2017

The Free University of Brussels (VUB) has again, together with academic freedom network Scholars at Risk, written a letter to Iranian authorities in defence of professor Ahmadreza Djalali. The Iranian-Swedish scientist, a guest lecturer at VUB, is accused of espionage and was due to appear in court in Teheran on Wednesday, but the hearing was postponed at the last minute. He risks the death sentence.

Djalali (pictured) has spent 15 months in prison after being arrested during a visit to family in Iran. The accusation of espionage is based on Djalali’s contacts with western academics as an expert in disaster-related medical assistance.

The professor has reportedly never been allowed to speak to a lawyer. He has undertaken several hunger strikes and is thought to have been tortured into signing a confession.

VUB made several efforts last year to denounce the situation and has joined its name to a letter to the Iranian Ayatollah and several other authorities, including the Iranian ambassador to Belgium. The academics involved in the campaign to release Djalali have also urged Iranian public figures to use their influence.

“I believe that you can have a positive impact on the fate of professor Djalali,” read the letter, signed by prominent international academics. “We therefore respectfully urge you to ask the authorities to withdraw the accusations against him, pending the court hearing on 2 August.”

VUB rector Caroline Pauwels said that she is “very worried about what Djalali and his family have suffered” but also about “the effect that this kind of situation can have on opportunities for Iranian academics and students to study, lecture and collaborate in peace”.

Photo courtesy Facebook

Written by Andy Furniere