Iran, Sweden free prisoners in Oman-mediated swap

Swedish EU diplomat Johan Floderus (C) attends a court session in Tehran on December 10, 2023. Floderus and another Swede held in Iran have been released and are on a flight home to Sweden, Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson announced on June 15, 2024. Photo: AFP

Iran and Sweden announced a prisoner exchange on Saturday in which a former Iranian official was released in Sweden in exchange for a European Union diplomat and a second Swede.

Hamid Noury, a 63-year-old Iranian former prisons official serving a life sentence in Sweden, landed at Tehran’s Mehrabad airport at around 5:30 pm (1400 GMT) where he was welcomed by family members and officials, state television footage showed.

Earlier, Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson had said Johan Floderus, an EU diplomat, and a second Swedish national had been released by Iran and were on a flight home.

He later posted on social media platform X that he had spoken by telephone to the pair while they were on the plane en route to Sweden.

“Long journey ahead but nice to hear their voices,” Kristersson said.

“Both said they are doing pretty well under the circumstances. They look forward to coming home and meeting their families,” he added.

Floderus, a 33-year-old EU diplomat, had been held in Iran since April 2022 accused of espionage, for which he risked a death sentence.

Following his release, his father, Matts Floderus, told Swedish news agency TT that the family “are of course terribly happy”.

The other Swede, Saeed Azizi, had been arrested in November 2023.

State media in neutral Oman, which has acted as a mediator between Iran and Western governments in the past, said that following its mediation, the two governments had agreed to the “mutual release” of detained nationals.

“Those released were transferred from Tehran and Stockholm to Muscat today, 15 June 2024, for their repatriation,” the official Oman News Agency said.

Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman, Nasser Kanani, thanked the Omani government for brokering the swap. He hailed the exchange as a victory for Iranian diplomacy in “realising and securing national interests as well as firmly supporting the rights of Iranians”.