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An Iranian journalist escapes from Zarif’s delegation and seeks asylum in Sweden

An Iranian journalist accompanying Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has escaped from his country’s delegation during his stop in Sweden and sought asylum, Swedish authorities said on Tuesday.

The Swedish Immigration Office confirmed to AFP that he had received a request for “residence on August 21, 2019” from Amir Tawhid Fazil, journalist at the Iranian hardline agency “Moj”, without giving further details.

The reason for applying for asylum was the publication of a list of Iranian officials alleged to be dual nationals, including those of “countries the Iranian government considers hostile”, while Iran rejects dual citizenship and denies consular protection to foreign nationals.

“The Iranian government has officially announced that it will file a complaint,” Amir Tawhid Fazil said on Swedish television.

The journalist was part of the delegation accompanying Jawad Zarif on his international tour which included Finland, Sweden and Norway, and started from Kuwait on 17 August.

On August 20, Fadil told Swedish TV that “while I was in Sweden, one of my colleagues in Tehran called me and said that four plainclothes policemen came to the agency with a warrant for his arrest.”

The following day, Fadel was able to withdraw from the delegation “if difficult because of the presence of 48 guards to protect the security of Minister Zarif and monitor journalists.”

In his televised speech, he avoided commenting on his political stance in Iran.

“The (hardline) Kayhan newspaper puts me in the box of reformers,” he said. “The official Iran newspaper considers me part of the fundamentalist team.”

Iran ranks 170 out of 180 in the global ranking for 2019 in terms of press freedom, according to Reporters Without Borders