Rouhani ‘didn’t ask for nude statues to be covered up’

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said there had been no prior discussion between Italy and Iran over Italy’s decision to obscure nude sculptors during a visit to Rome’s Capitoline Museums on Monday.

Rouhani 'didn’t ask for nude statues to be covered up'
Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

In a move that sparked widespread criticism in Italy and beyond, the statues were covered up with cardboard boxes to spare Rouhani’s blushes and was seen as a mark of respect for the traditions of the Muslim country, which has only just had its trade sanctions lifted.

The statues lined a corridor which the Iranian delegation had to pass on their way to a press conference.

Read more here: Rome's nude statues covered to spare Rouhani's blushes

But Rouhani told reporters on Wednesday that the story, which overshadowed the announcement during the conference of deals worth up to €17 billion between the two countries, was hyped by the media.

“There was no contact in regards to this,” he was quoted by Ansa as saying.

“I can only say that Italians are very hospitable, they try to do all they can to put guests at ease, and I thank them for that.”

But the decision was lambasted by Italian politicians, with Daniele Capezzone, a centre-right politician and spokesman for the People of Freedom party, saying, “Italy bowing to Iranians like this is embarrassing.”



Italy tells Iran of ‘extreme concern’ for scientist who could face death penalty

The Italian government expressed alarm on Monday about the fate of an Iranian academic detained in Tehran for nearly a year and reportedly sentenced to death for espionage.

Italy tells Iran of 'extreme concern' for scientist who could face death penalty
Italy's foreign minister, Angelino Alfano. Photo: AFP

Ahmadreza Djalali, who used to work at the University of Eastern Piedmont, was arrested on April 25th 2016 when in the Iranian capital for a conference, according to Italian media.

The foreign ministry in Rome said in a statement it had “activated its channels of communication with the Iranian authorities to highlight its extreme concern” about the 45-year-old.

Stressing his academic links, the ministry sought information about Djalali's detention — he is reportedly in Tehran's notorious Evin Prison — and asked “that he be quickly returned to his family”.

Djalali's wife, who is living in Stockholm with the couple's two children, told Corriere della Sera that he faced “the death penalty for collaboration with enemy states”. 

Djalali worked at the University of Eastern Piedmont between 2012 and 2015 and also had employment in Belgium.

There has been no comment from Iranian officials or media about his case.

Djalali is resident in Sweden where he conducts research in disaster medicine at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. 

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven discussed human rights on a visit to Iran at the weekend but did not say if he had specifically mentioned Djalali's case.