Iran detains two Europeans during EU nuclear negotiator’s visit

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TEHRAN, Iran – Iran’s intelligence ministry said Wednesday it had detained two Europeans while an EU envoy was visiting the country for his stalled nuclear talks with world powers.

The ministry announced that during the visit of EU Ambassador Enrique Mora, Tehran had already threatened to execute a detained Iranian-Swedish researcher since 2016, and another Iranian had been sentenced to life in prison in Sweden.

Iran has long been accused of using its arrests as a bargaining chip with the West. Tehran denies it, although its landmark was released by the Americans in a swap in negotiations around the 2015 nuclear deal.

The ministry said in a statement that the two Europeans planned to turn the regular demands of various social and professional groups into “chaos, social disorder and instability”.

It did not identify the detainees by nationality. Sweden said on Friday that one of its nationals traveling as a tourist had been detained in Iran, but it was unclear whether his case was linked to the intelligence ministry’s announcement.

The statement said two “professional specialist” agents had been recruited by a European intelligence agency. It said the ministry had been following them since the “moment of arrival” and had documented all their links to the “teachers’ league’s illegal council”.

Teachers in Iran are facing regular protests over pay disputes.

Mora’s visit comes as talks on a nuclear deal in Vienna have stalled. The deal, which saw Tehran limit its prosperity by lifting economic sanctions, has stalled Iran’s demand for listing the US Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organization.

Despite repeated claims by Iran that a separate deal would secure billions of dollars in assets and exchange prisoners with the United States, the State Department has repeatedly said that no agreement is forthcoming on a prisoner exchange or a nuclear deal.

The deal broke down in 2018 after then-President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the deal. Iran has since accelerated its uranium enrichment – including a small amount of 60% purity, a short, technical step from the weapons-grade level.

Separately, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has been increasingly criticized for monitoring Iran’s nuclear program, Iran’s failure to cooperate with the IAEA, and its refusal to explain signs of radioactive material at several undeclared nuclear sites in the country. Iran has refused to release IAEA surveillance tapes of its nuclear facilities, citing concerns from nuclear non-proliferation experts.

Iran, meanwhile, last threatened to execute Swedish-Iranian doctor Ahmed Reza Jalali by May 21. Jalali is a Swedish-Iranian physician who specializes in disaster relief and has taught at European universities. Human rights groups have condemned the arrest.

An Iranian man accused of carrying out genocide in the final stages of the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s has announced his impending execution after Iran summoned its Swedish ambassador to Sweden for a landmark trial.

Swedish prosecutors are seeking the life sentence of Hamid Nouri, who has been in Swedish custody since his arrest in Stockholm in November 2019. The Stockholm District Court said the verdict in the case was expected on July 14

The Associated Press writer John Gambrel of Lviv, Ukraine contributed to this report.

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