STOCKHOLM, June 16 — A Swede freed in a prisoner swap with Iran, 33-year-old EU diplomat Johan Floderus, said in his first words since his release that he was “in seventh heaven”, in a video published Sunday.

In the video obtained by AFP from the Swedish government, Floderus can be heard speaking to Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson by satellite phone while on a flight home from Iran on Saturday.

“I’m in the sky and I feel emotionally like I’m in seventh heaven. I’ve been waiting for this for almost 800 days,” an audibly exhilarated Floderus told a smiling Kristersson.

“I’ve dreamt of this day so many times,” he said, adding: “It’s beginning to sink in that I’ve left Iran’s airspace and am on my way home.”

Floderus could later be seen hugging his family members at Stockholm’s Arlanda airport after he landed, in images released by the Swedish government.

Floderus was arrested in Iran as he was about to return home from a holiday in April 2022. He was accused of espionage, for which he risked a death sentence.

He and another Swedish national, Saeed Azizi, were released on Saturday in exchange for Hamid Noury, a 63-year-old Iranian former prisons official handed a life sentence in Sweden in 2022 for his role in mass killings in Iranian jails in 1988.

A Swedish court had convicted Noury of “grave breaches of international humanitarian law and murder”. He had said he was on leave during the period in question.

Swedish officials have defended their decision to issue a pardon for Noury, amid criticism from exiled Iranians in Sweden, among others.

“Under normal circumstances, Hamid Noury should have served his prison sentence,” Justice Minister Gunnar Strommer told reporters late Saturday.

“On the other hand, we had an exceptional situation, with two Swedish citizens detained in Iran on arbitrary grounds, with the risk of a death sentence in one of the cases.”

“This was a difficult decision, but one the government had to take,” Strommer said.

Another Swede, dual national and academic Ahmad Reza Jalali, has been on death row in Iran since 2017 after being convicted of espionage.

His wife has criticised the Swedish government for not including him in the prisoner swap.

Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom said Stockholm had tried to secure his release, but Tehran refused to discuss his case as it does not recognise dual nationality.

“Unfortunately, Iran refuses to recognise him as a Swedish citizen,” Billstrom said. — AFP