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A Swedish diplomat says his release from a 2-year detention in Iran is like a dream

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (news agencies) — The Swedish European Union diplomat who was held in Iran for two years and freed in a prisoner swap over the weekend said Tuesday that his release was “the dream that I sometimes did not dare to believe in.”

Johan Floderus and a second Swedish citizen, Saeed Azizi, returned to Sweden on Saturday in exchange for Hamid Nouri, an Iranian convicted in Stockholm of committing war crimes over his part in 1988 mass executions in the Islamic Republic.

Floderus was arrested in April 2022 at the Tehran airport while returning from a vacation with friends. He had been held for months before his family and others went public with his detention.

“After two long years, I am finally a free man, reunited with my family, my fiance, and will be able to marry,” he said in a statement to Swedish media. “The dream that I sometimes did not dare to believe in has come true — to be back with my loved ones and to live my life in freedom.”

Sweden’s Expressen tabloid posted a video of Floderus on his knee at the airport on Saturday and appearing to be proposing to his fiance. In the background stood Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson, who had welcomed Floderus and Azizi at the airport and said they had faced a “hell on earth.”

The swap was mediated by Oman, a sultanate on the eastern edge of the Arabian Peninsula that has long served as an interlocutor between Iran and the West. It came as the Muslim world celebrates Eid al-Adha, which marks the end of the Hajj pilgrimage and typically sees prisoners freed.

The arrest of Nouri by Sweden in 2019 as he traveled there as a tourist likely sparked the detentions of the two Swedes, part of a long-running strategy by Iran since its 1979 Islamic Revolution to use those with ties abroad as bargaining chips in negotiations with the West. Iran long has contended it doesn’t hold prisoners to use in negotiations, despite years of multiple swaps with the U.S. and other nations showing otherwise.

In 2022, the Stockholm District Court sentenced Nouri to life in prison. It identified him as an assistant to the deputy prosecutor at the Gohardasht prison outside the Iranian city of Karaj.

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