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Planned execution of disaster medicine scholar Ahmadreza Djalali must be halted immediately

The Royal Irish Academy expresses grave concern for the well-being of Dr Ahmadreza Djalali, an Iranian-Swedish scholar of disaster medicine, who is at imminent risk of execution.

As a proud and active member of the International Science Council (ISC), the Royal Irish Academy supports the ISC’s call on the Iranian authorities to suspend the capital sentence issued against Dr Amadreza Djalali and to secure his immediate release.

Dr Djalali has been placed in solitary confinement by Iranian authorities, who are preparing to carry out his death sentence. Dr Djalali was arrested in April 2016 while travelling to participate in a series of workshops hosted by universities in Tehran and Shiraz. On 21 October 2017, Dr Djalali was convicted and sentenced to death based on allegations that he had provided intelligence to the Israeli authorities. Dr Djalali has disputed the allegations, asserting that his ties to the international academic community are the basis of his prosecution. Dr Djalali teaches at universities in Sweden, Italy and Belgium, including Karolinska Institutet, in Sweden; Università degli Studi del Piemonte Orientale, in Italy; and Vrije Universiteit Brussel, in Belgium. Dr Djalali has been denied the right to appeal his conviction and sentence. According to his family, Dr Djalali has been subjected to torture and solitary confinement while in state custody.

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention found in a 2017 opinion that he was arbitrarily detained and called for his immediate release. Iranian authorities have ignored repeated calls from the international higher education and human rights communities to free Dr Djalali and return him to his family and colleagues.

The ISC advocates for the free and responsible practice of science, which is fundamental to global scientific advancement and human and environmental well-being. Such practice requires freedom of movement, association, expression and communication by scientists. Dr Djalali has been denied the right to peacefully conduct his academic research and contribute fully to his speciality in disaster medicine.

Dr Djalali’s situation raises grave concerns for scholars and society everywhere. His arrest, conviction and sentencing suggest a flagrant disregard for international standards of academic freedom, due process, fair trial, and humane treatment of prisoners, as guaranteed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a party. Furthermore, the UNESCO Recommendation on Science and Scientific Researchers states that ‘Member States should guarantee that, for the health and safety of scientific researchers as of all other persons likely to be affected by the research and development activity in question, all national regulations, and the international instruments concerned with the protection of workers in general from hostile or dangerous environments, will be fully met’.

The ISC is currently urging the Iranian authorities to suspend the capital sentence issued against Dr Djalali and to arrange for his immediate release. The Royal Irish Academy has also contacted Ireland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs urging him to do the same.