AFP: Iran on Monday pardoned two Swedish nationals jailed for photographing military installations last year and will release them later in the day, the foreign ministry said. by Farhad Pouladi
TEHRAN, April 16, 2007 (AFP) – Iran on Monday pardoned two Swedish nationals jailed for photographing military installations last year and will release them later in the day, the foreign ministry said.
“Within the framework of the humanitarian efforts of Iran and following the requests of the families and repeated requests from Swedish politicians… they have been pardoned and will be freed at 6:00 pm” (1530 GMT), Mohammad Ali Hosseini said.
The two men, named as Stefan Johanssen and Jari Hjortmar, were arrested in March 2006 for taking pictures of military installations on Iran’s southern island of Qeshm and sentenced to two years in prison.
Hosseini said that the men would be released in the presence of Urban Ahlin, deputy head of the Swedish parliament’s foreign affairs committee, and a top Iranian foreign ministry official for the Europe region.
Their release comes less than two weeks after 15 British naval personnel held by Iran on accusations of illegally entering Iranian waters were suddenly pardoned and released.
Two other Europeans, German tourist Donald Klein and French boat skipper Stephane Lherbier, were also both freed earlier this year before completing 18-month sentences for violating Iran’s territorial waters.
The Swedish pair were charged with taking pictures of military sites, naval facilities and telecommunication posts on Qeshm and Iranian news agencies said at the time they had been jailed for espionage.
Swedish press reports identified the two men as construction workers aged between 30 and 40 from western Sweden.
Their case was far less publicised than that of Klein and Lherbier let alone the 15 British sailors whose detention sparked a major diplomatic standoff between Tehran and London.
However Hosseini emphasised that Ahlin had visited Iran three times in the past eight months to discuss the case of the pair and that during these trips he had met with the judiciary head Ayatollah Hashemi Mahmoud Shahroudi.
Iran’s detention of the Europeans came amid an escalating standoff with Europe and the United States over its nuclear programme, which the West suspects could be aimed at producing nuclear weapons.
However Iran insists that its nuclear drive is solely aimed at generating energy.