Urgent appeal for Ahmadreza Djalali, detained in Iran since 2016
Sapienza supports the initiatives of the Scholar at Risk (SAR) network to demand the suspension of the death penalty and the release of Ahmadreza Djalali. Ahmadreza, an Iranian scholar living and working in Europe, was imprisoned in April 2016 and sentenced to death. His long and harsh imprisonment pending the death penalty has deeply overwhelmed him, and his physical and mental condition has severely deteriorated.
In November 2021, SAR awarded Ahamdreza Djalali the Courage to Think Award for 2021, intended for individuals, groups or institutions that demonstrate exemplary commitment to protecting scholars and promoting academic freedom; the award was accepted by his wife, Vida Mehrannia, on Ahmadreza's behalf at the SAR's virtual symposium held on December 9, 2021.
Sapienza joined and promoted the SAR appeal launched in April 2021, five years after the arrest.
The appeal was launched on April 26, 2021, by Ole Petter Ottersen, President of the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Gian Carlo Avanzi, Rector of the Università del Piemonte Orientale in Vercelli, and Caroline Pauwels, Rector of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, on behalf of the three universities in which Ahmadreza Djalali had researched before his detention in Iran. "We had the privilege of having Dr Djalali as a colleague," write the three rectors, "and now we once again publicly call for his immediate release".
Scholars at Risk calls on the Iranian authorities to suspend the death sentence issued against Ahmadreza Djalali and secure his immediate release to receive urgently needed medical treatment.
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While visiting Iran in April 2016 to participate in a series of workshops hosted by Tehran and Shiraz universities, authorities arrested Djalali for allegedly "collaborating with hostile governments." Since then, he has subsequently been detained in Evin Prison and periodically held in solitary confinement. On October 21, 2017, Djalali was sentenced to death. On November 24, 2020, Iranian authorities transferred him to solitary confinement and began preparations to carry out the death sentence. Since then, authorities have continuously postponed the execution but have kept Djalali in solitary confinement for over 20 weeks. His health has drastically deteriorated while subjected to extreme conditions, including isolation and lights on 24/7. He reportedly suffers from stomach pain and breathing difficulties and has lost more than 26 pounds. On April 14, 2021, authorities transferred Ahmadreza Djalali from solitary confinement to a cell with multiple occupants. Authorities continue to deny him access to his lawyer, his family, and urgently needed medical care. These deliberate actions impose immeasurable anguish and pain on Dr Djalali and his family.
According to SAR, on January 22, 2022, Dr. Djalali was reportedly transported to a hospital outside of Evin Prison to undergo surgery; he was transferred back to Evin Prison the day after the procedure, denying him the ability to properly recover in the hospital.
On May 4, 2022, Iran’s ISNA news agency reported that Dr. Djalali will be executed on May 21.
Amnesty International on May 24, 2002 announced that the latest appeal by Ahmadreza Djalali's lawyers has been rejected and the scholar could be executed at any time.
Before his arrest, which took place in April 2016 while he was in the Iranian capital for a seminar, he lived and carried out his research in Stockholm, where he had moved with his family for years and had international academic relationships with several universities.
The Scholar at Risks network, of which Sapienza has been a member since 2019, has mobilised, together with Amnesty International and other organisations, to demand the suspension of the death sentence and the immediate release of Djalali for health reasons. The campaign is also supported by the CIVIS Alliance, by Unica, the network of Universities from the Capitals of Europe and by Crui (The Conference of Italian University Rectors) that sent appeals to Iranian authorities to demand Djalali's release.
Scholar at Risk is an international network of universities founded in 1999 at the University of Chicago by academics and human rights defenders interested in promoting the principle of academic freedom and protecting academics whose lives are in danger or whose research and teaching work is severely compromised.