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Iran - Hamid Ghassemi-Shall is free after death sentence is commuted

    September 24, 2013

    Amnesty International welcomes the news that Canadian-Iranian dual national Hamid Ghassemi-Shall was released from Evin prison in Iran on 23 September 2013.

    Ghassemi-Shall was arrested 24 May 2008 while visiting his elderly mother in Iran. His older brother, Alborz Ghassemi-Shall, had been arrested about two weeks earlier. Both brothers were held in solitary confinement without legal representation, in Tehran’s Evin prison for 18 months. On 29 December 2008 both men were sentenced to death following an unfair trial by a Revolutionary Court. They were convicted of moharebeh (enmity against God) for espionage and cooperation with the proscribed People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI). In November 2009 the brothers were transferred to a section of the prison holding other prisoners.

    In January 2010 Alborz Ghassemi-Shall, who was suffering from stomach cancer, died in prison. Hamid Ghassemi-Shall has said that while in Evin Prison, before he had access to legal representation, he was under “extreme pressure” to “confess”. “Confessions” made under torture are frequently accepted as evidence in Iranian courts, violating the right to a fair trial. The Iranian authorities had previously threatened to arrest the brothers’ sister Mahin Ghassemi-Shall, who has since died, for speaking out on behalf of her brother.

    Amnesty International began campaigning on Ghassemi-Shall’s behalf in December 2009. An Urgent Action opposing his death sentenced was issued 26 April 2012.  Thousands of Amnesty members across Canada participated in actions on his behalf.  More than 13,000 persons signed a petition to stop his execution, and thousands of letters and post cards were sent to Iranian authorities. Antonella Mega, the wife of Hamid Ghassemi-Shall, received thousands of solidarity messages, and hundreds of these were sent to Ghassemi-Shall in Evin prison.

    In January 2011 the Canadian government publicly expressed concern for Ghassemi-Shall and in May 2012, the Canadian House of Commons endorsed an urgent appeal to the Government of Iran to grant clemency to Ghassemi-Shall.

    Persian media sources reported on 23 September 2013 that Ghassemi-Shall was released after his sentence was reduced from death to five years imprisonment. He was released after having served five years and four months.

    Hamid Ghassemi-Shall spoke by telephone to his wife Antonella Mega following his release from prison.  She was able to confirm his release and is seeking information as to when he can return to Canada.

     

    For further information contact John Tackaberry, Media Relations                  (613)744-7667 #236 jtackaberry@amnesty.ca