Tobias Billstrom

Sweden Admits Failure in Iran Travel Advisory Amid Costly Hostage Release

Sunday, 06/16/2024

Sweden's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Tobias Billstrom, has publicly acknowledged a significant oversight in travel advisories concerning Iran, following the recent controversial prisoner swap deal with Tehran.

Sweden's Minister of Foreign Affairs has publicly acknowledged a significant oversight in travel advisories concerning Iran, following the recent controversial prisoner swap deal between Iran and Sweden.

The exchange involved a convicted war criminal, Hamid Nouri, who was serving a life sentence in Sweden for his role in the 1988 mass execution of prisoners serving their sentences in Iran, released in exchange for Swedish EU diplomat Johan Floderus and Swedish-Iranian citizen Saeid Azizi.

"A travel advisory to Iran was not in place when Johan Floderus went there," Billstrom admitted in a statement released on the platform X on Sunday.

"A decision to advise against all non-essential travel to Iran was made only on April 28, 2022, which was eleven days after Johan Floderus was detained in Iran. Subsequently, on June 23, 2022, a broader advisory against all travel to Iran was issued," Billstrom added.

(From left) Former Iranian official Nouri, Swedish diplomat Johan Floders and Iranian-Swedish dual-national Saeed Azizi

This admission highlights a critical lapse in Sweden's official guidance, particularly concerning the safety and security of its citizens traveling to Iran. The error was especially costly in light of the detention of Swedish dual nationals in Iran in previous years including the arbitrary arrest of Ahmadreza Djalili’s in 2016, who was also left out of the prisoner swap deal.

Djalili was arrested in 2016 while visiting Iran as a scholar and accused of espionage. He was later tried on trumped-up charges and sentenced to death, without due process of law.

This oversight has raised broader questions about the Swedish authorities' negligence, as they delayed issuing a warning against all travel to Iran until June 2023, despite clear threats from Iranian officials in May 2022 in retaliation for Nouri’s trial in Sweden. On May 19, 2022, Amnesty International issued a public statement warning of Iran's threats to execute Ahmadreza Djalali in response to Hamid Nouri's prosecution.

Most Western countries have strict travel warnings for their citizens urging them not to visit Iran, which has routinely arrested ordinary travelers and held them as de fact hostages to force Western countries to make concessions.

Amnesty International highlighted in its statement, “State media articles published on May 4, 2022, provide further evidence that the Iranian authorities are using Ahmadreza Jalali’s life as a bargaining chip to pervert the course of justice in Sweden and compel Swedish authorities to release Hamid Nouri.”

Yet, Sweden failed to issue a warning to its citizens until it was too late. Johan Floderus, an individual working for the Swedish foreign service decided for personal reasons to visit Iran and was arrested by the notorious intelligence organization of the Revolutionary Guard.

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