Johan Floderus

Johan Floderus

Swedish Diplomat for the EU


Johan Floderus is a Swedish national and European Union diplomat. He studied for his undergraduate degree in universities in Sweden and England, and pursued a master’s degree in development economics at the SOAS University of London. He was an aide to the European Commissioner for Home Affairs from 2019 to 2021. In 2021, he joined the European External Action Service (EEAS), the EU’s diplomatic corps. He worked as a member of the EEAS’s Afghanistan delegation but did not go to Afghanistan due to the Taliban’s August 2021 armed takeover of that country. He lived in Brussels.


Floderus was arrested at the airport in Tehran on April 17, 2022, as he was about to leave Iran following a tourist visit to that country. He had previously visited Iran in his capacity as an EU diplomat.

News about Arrest

The Swedish foreign ministry revealed in May 2022 that Iran had detained an unnamed Swedish man. The ministry said, “[t]he embassy in Tehran is seeking information on the case and is in contact with local authorities.”

Iran’s intelligence ministry announced in July 2022 that it had arrested an unnamed Swedish national for espionage. In the statement, the ministry claimed that “[t]he suspect had been under surveillance by the intelligence ministry during several previous trips to Iran because of (their) suspicious behaviour and contacts.” The statement accused Sweden of “proxy spying” on Iran for Israel and said that activity would meet with a “proportional reaction” by Iran.

The New York Times named Floderus in a September 4, 2023, report as the Swedish national detained by Iran. That day, Floderus’s family released a statement: “We, Johan’s family, are deeply worried and in despair. Johan was suddenly and without reason deprived of his liberty on a vacation trip and has been in an Iranian prison for more than 500 days… We know that many are working hard to get him free and we are grateful for that. At the same time, every day is a huge trial, for us and above all for Johan. He must be released and allowed to come home immediately.”

European officials finally confirmed Floderus’s identity on September 5, 2023, the day after the Times report.

Treatment in Captivity

The regime is reportedly holding Floderus in Tehran’s notoriously brutal Evin Prison. Floderus’s family claimed on September 10, 2023, that he is being held in solitary confinement and had been in solitary for over 300 days. Floderus’s family also stated that the lights are on in his cell 24 hours a day, and the authorities are not giving him sufficient food or adequate access to food, health care, fresh air, sunlight, exercise outside, letters, and books. They also claimed that Floderus was prohibited from contacting his family for the first ten months of his incarceration and that he is not allowed to send any letters. Further, the authorities only allowed Floderus to make one brief monthly phone call, beginning in February 2023, after he went on a hunger strike. The family added that Floderus was only granted a meeting with Swedish diplomats five months after his arrest and has only met with them “very few” times. Floderus’s father said that his son is in “levels of hell.”

In February 2024, Floderus’s sister, Ingrid, told the media that "I think he is doing worse and worse. I can see from the pictures from his trial that he looks very different from the brother I know. He looks much skinnier, very pale, of course, since he's basically never going out and I know that he doesn't get this much food.”

Charges and Trial

In December 2023, the Iranian judiciary’s news agency announced that Floderus had been charged with extensive measures against the security of the country, extensive intelligence cooperation with the Zionist regime [Israel], and corruption on Earth.” The third charge carries the death penalty.

According to the Guardian, the prosecutor’s office alleged that Floderus had “gathered information on Iran’s nuclear and enrichment programmes, carried out ‘subversive projects’ for the benefit of Israel and established a network of ‘agents of the Swedish intelligence service.’” The office of the prosecutor also stated that Floderus had been engaged in “intelligence cooperation and communication with the European Union” and the Mujahedin e-Khalq (MEK), an Iranian exile group that Tehran considers to be a terrorist organization.

Floderus’s trial commenced in December 2023 in Branch 26 of Tehran’s Revolutionary Court. The presiding judge, Iman Afshari, is known for handing out prison sentences to defendants prosecuted for political reasons on trumped-up charges.. The prosecution reportedly is seeking the death penalty. Sweden’s chargé d’affaires in Iran was present, but the court prevented him from participating.

International Reaction

On September 10, 2023, Floderus’s family launched a website to campaign for his release with the hashtag #FreeJohanFloderus.

After the New York Times reported in September 2023 about Floderus’s detention, members of the European Parliament (MEPs) publicly objected to EU officials keeping the case secret from them. “The imprisonment of a Swedish citizen and employee of the European Union is a scandalous event that urgently needs to be clarified,” said Cornelia Ernst, chair of the parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iran. “The commission, and in particular Josep Borrell [the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy], must now explain how long they knew about the detention and why it was not made public.”

Multiple other MEPs likewise expressed outrage. Swedish MEP Emma Wiesner tweeted that the detention constituted “kidnapping,” “[at a time] when you thought the disgust for the Iranian regime couldn’t get any bigger.” She called for action by Borrell. Iraqi-born Swedish MEP Abir Alsahlani tweeted, “This is OUTRAGEOUS!!!!! While keeping this secret, the Mullahs regime in Iran has been given the opportunity to blackmail European governments and continue killing people! When will the European government’s wake up and smell the f-king coffee? No negotiations with terrorist regimes!” German MEP Hannah Neumann tweeted, “An [EU] employee is held by #Iran regime for over 500 days?! [The EEAS] should have informed Parliament, to be frank. Including information on what is being done to get him out of there and how this has impacted been raised during JCPOA negotiations. WTF @JosepBorrellF.”

Borrell, when finally confirming Floderus’s identity the day after the Times report, said the diplomat had been “illegally detained.” Borrell added:

I want to stress that, I personally, all my team, at all levels, the European institutions in close coordination with the Swedish authorities, which have the first responsibility of consular protection, and with his family, have been pushing Iranian authorities to release him… Every time we had a diplomatic meeting, at all levels, we had put the issue on the table. Relentlessly, we have been working for the freedom of Mr. Floderus. And we will continue doing that in close contact with the family, respecting their will, and for sure with the Swedish government… This is very much in our agenda, in our heart, and we will not stop until Floderus [is] freed.

An EEAS spokesperson commented on September 4, 2023, “This case has also to be seen in the context of the growing number of arbitrary detentions involving EU citizens.

We have used and will continue to use every opportunity to raise the issue with the Iranian authorities to obtain the release of all arbitrarily detained EU citizens.”

Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billström said on September 4, 2023, “The Government has worked and is working—very intensively—on this case. The person in question has been arbitrarily deprived of his freedom and should therefore be released immediately. This message has been conveyed, including by me personally.”

On September 11, 2023, European Parliament President Roberta Metsola called for the immediate release of Floderus and fellow Iran hostage Ahmadreza Djalali, likewise a Swedish national, during the opening of the parliament’s session.

After the announcement of the charges against Floderus in December 2023, Borrell again called for his release, stating that “Mr. Floderus is innocent. There are absolutely no grounds for keeping Johan Floderus in detention.” Likewise, Swedish Foreign Minister Billström said, “There is no basis whatsoever for keeping Johan Floderus in detention, let alone bringing him to trial.” Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson also demanded Floderus’s “immediate release,” adding, “We are doing intensive work alongside Iran on this issue.”

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