The Swedish foreign minister spoke to his Iranian counterpart following revelations of an IRGC plot to murder Swedish Jews, warning that the allegations are being treated as a "very serious" issue.
Tobias Billstrom spoke to Hossein Amir-Abdollahian on Thursday following a Swedish Radio report revealing the deportation in 2022 of two Iranians illegally in Sweden plotting to kill Swedish Jews.
“It is very serious that Iranian agents on Swedish territory have tried to murder Swedish citizens, and the fact that the targets were Jewish naturally makes it even more serious,” Billstrom stressed.
The couple, Mahdi Ramezani and Fereshteh Sanaeifarid, who had entered Sweden in 2015 on forged Afghan passports seeking asylum, were arrested in 2021 but deported in 2022 after police could not take proceedings further.
They intended to target three Swedish Jews including Aron Verständig, Chair of the Official Council of Swedish Jewish communities, who was informed of the plot in 2021. One of the other potential targets was a dual US citizen.
The suspects, believed to have been part of an IRGC plot, lived under fake identities in the country.
Deputy chief prosecutor Hans Ihrman said the FBI in the US was also investigating the couple. While there was not enough evidence to prosecute in Sweden, Ihrman said: “We have strong belief that they were here on a mission on behalf of Iran. They were seen here in Sweden as a very severe security threat. And that's the reason why they were expelled, even if we couldn't prosecute them."
Meanwhile, Daniel Stenling, head of counterintelligence in Sweden's security service, confirmed that the couple “prepared and pursued activities” with the aim of “being able to carry out physical attacks against someone or something in Sweden.”
Stenling further added that over the past years, the Swedish security services have managed to foil several other attacks planned by Iran against Sweden.
“It is already known that Iran also poses a major intelligence threat to Sweden, and that risk remains,” he went on to say.
Jews and Israelis abroad have increasingly been targets of the regime in recent years; several Iran-backed plots have been foiled in different countries including Greece, Cyprus, Azerbaijan and Argentina.
In September, the head of Israel's Mossad, David Barnea, said that Israel and its allies had foiled 27 attacks over the past year in Europe, Africa, southeast Asia and South America.
Last year, Sweden's parliament voted to designate the IRGC as a terrorist organization.
Tehran-Stockholm ties have been ever more strained since 2019 and the arrest of a former Iranian jailor, Hamid Nouri. Sweden sentenced him to life imprisonment last year over executions of political prisoners in Iran in 1988.
During the phone call, Billstrom also urged the immediate release of Johan Floderus, a Swedish diplomat of the European Union who was detained in April 2022 during a vacation in Iran on what appears to be trumped up charges of espionage.
In the fifth and concluding trial session of Floderus held at the Tehran Revolutionary Court in January, the prosecutor's representative demanded the strictest punishment for the 33-year-old Swedish citizen.