TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran sentenced two Swedish citizens to multiyear prison terms on charges of drug smuggling, the judiciary announced on Tuesday, the latest in a string of cases heightening tensions between the Islamic Republic and the Nordic nation.
Iran’s hard-line judiciary handed down a five-year sentence and fine of roughly $34,000 to Swedish national Simon Kasper Brown for allegedly trafficking 9.7 kilograms (about 22 pounds) of the banned pain medication Tramadol. Security forces scooped up Brown from Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport and confiscated his stash of the mild narcotic pills, said Masoud Setayeshi, the judiciary spokesman.
Tehran also sentenced Swedish citizen Stephen Kevin Gilbert to eight years in prison and ordered he pay a $500 fine. Gilbert was arrested at the airport in January 2020 for allegedly smuggling 9.8 kilograms of opium-based drugs into the country, the judiciary said.
Brown and Gilbert are the latest Swedes to land in Iranian prison as relations between the two countries deteriorate. Earlier this year, Iran jailed two Swedish visitors in separate incidents on widely criticized espionage charges. Another Swedish citizen, a respected 50-year-old doctor who Iran accuses of spying for Israel, faces the death penalty.
The cases come amid a landmark quest in Sweden to hold accountable a former Iranian official accused of committing atrocities has kindled outrage back in Tehran. A court in Stockholm sentenced Hamid Nouri to life imprisonment over his alleged war crimes, prompting Iran to recall its ambassador.
Iran has imprisoned at least a dozen dual nationals in recent years as Tehran negotiates for money and influence with the West. Most of them are held on disputed spying charges.
Iran’s law also stipulates harsh punishment for drug crimes. Those charged with drug possession, dealing or trafficking offenses make up some 73% of executions in the country.