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Canadian Government Advocacy for Prisoners in Iran Must Continue Following Embassy Closure

    September 11, 2012

    Following the Canadian government’s decision to end diplomatic relations with  Iran, announced on September 7, 2012, Amnesty International strongly recommends that efforts be intensified to safeguard the rights of  Canadian-Iranian citizens, Hamid Ghassemi-Shall and Hossein Derakhshan as well as Canadian permanent resident, Saeed Malekpour.  Ghassemi-Shall and Malekpour are on death row in Tehran’s Evin Prison and Derakhshan has been sentenced to 19 years for blogging.  Canadian diplomatic efforts on these cases must continue and, given the strained context of relations between the two countries, must become an even greater priority.

    Amnesty International has been working to uphold the rights of these three men since 2008. We have raised concerns that they did not receive fair trials and have also very likely been subjected to torture. We have unequivocally opposed the imposition of the death penalty against Ghassemi-Shall and Malekpour.

    “Efforts to protect the rights of these three men and ensure that Ghassemi-Shall and Malekpour will not be executed were already extremely challenging before this latest development,” said Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada.  “Innovative and determined strategies will be crucial now that relations between Iran and Canada have been cut.  Among other avenues, Canada must urgently turn to countries with influence in Tehran for assistance.”

    Hamid Ghassemi-Shall was arrested on 24 May 2008 while visiting his elderly mother in Iran. 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 and the unequivocal ban on torture. Amnesty International understands that the evidence used against the brothers during trial included a “confession” and an email the authorities alleged Hamid Ghassemi-Shall had sent to his brother Alborz Ghassemi-Shall, who had previously worked as a mechanical engineer in the Iranian army, which he denied sending. On 7 November 2009, the Supreme Court upheld the sentence. In January 2010 Alborz Ghassemi-Shall, who was suffering from stomach cancer, died in prison.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.

    Saeed Malekpour had been living in Canada since 2005, and was arrested in October 2008 while visiting his family in Iran. He was allegedly tortured while held in solitary confinement in Tehran’s Evin prison for over a year.  In 2009, Iranian state television repeatedly aired a “confession” by Saeed.  In an open letter dated March 2010, Saeed Malekpour stated his “confession” was extracted after prolonged torture following orders by Revolutionary Guard interrogators.

    Blogger Hossein Derakhshan, was unfairly tried and sentenced on 28 September 2010 to 19 and a half years’ imprisonment on vaguely worded charges relating to national security. He was detained without charge for about 19 months prior to trial and denied regular access to his family and lawyer. Amnesty International believes he is likely held solely for the peaceful expression of his views, and if so should be immediately and unconditionally released.

    Beth Berton-Hunter,
    Media Relations,
    Amnesty International Canada
    416-363-9933, ext. 332