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Prime Minister urged to take direct action to save Hamid Ghassemi-Shall

    February 22, 2011

    The Right Honourable Stephen Harper
    Prime Minister of Canada
    80 Wellington Street
    Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2

    February 22, 2011

    Dear Prime Minister Harper,

    I am writing to you about the case of Canadian citizen Hamid Ghassemi-Shall, who has been imprisoned in Iran for close to three years.  Recent developments, in particular credible reports that a death sentence against him has now been confirmed, mean that his situation has become one of urgent concern.  Amnesty International is calling on you to become personally involved in efforts to ensure that he is not executed and that other human rights violations in his case are addressed.

    Hamid Ghassemi-Shall has reportedly been charged with espionage-related offences.  He has flatly denied the accusations against him and was not provided a fair opportunity to defend himself in proceedings that meet international fair trial standards.  We are gravely concerned that he has been subject to torture and ill-treatment which Amnesty International has documented to be widespread in Iranian prisons.

    On behalf of Amnesty International I have been in contact with the government about Mr. Ghassemi-Shall’s plight previously.  In addition, Amnesty International members across the country have written to you with their own personal requests for meaningful, high level Canadian government action on his behalf.  We have taken up his case because of a range of serious human rights concerns, including the death penalty, allegations of torture and ill-treatment, unfair trial, and the tragic death in custody of his brother, Alborz Ghassemi, who had been arrested just before his own arrest.

    The urgency of his situation is all the greater because of the current context in Iran.  First, the rate of executions in Iran has skyrocketed by an alarming rate over the past three months, with an average of 2 to 3 people being executed every day since the beginning of December.  Among those executed has been another dual national, Dutch/Iranian citizen Zahra Bahrami, who was put to death earlier this month.  Clearly a second, foreign nationality, which is generally not recognized by Iranian officials, cannot be counted on to provide protection.

    Second, the turbulent context of a harsh crackdown in the face of growing political protests in Iran adds to the urgency of the situation.  Protesters demanding democratic changes in Iran have taken to the streets in Iran in recent weeks, as they have in numerous countries across North Africa and the Middle East.  They have been met with a show of considerable force by Iranian security forces who have broken up demonstrations and arrested opposition leaders and protesters.

    This combination of increased executions and greater political turmoil mean that conditions are clearly volatile in the country.  In that context fears that Mr. Ghassemi-Shall could face a sudden execution are all the greater.

    Prime Minister, we recognize that it can be very difficult to make headway in raising human rights cases with the Iranian government.  That is why Amnesty International considers it essential for Mr. Ghassemi-Shall’s case to be raised at the very highest levels of government -- through an intervention by you personally. 


    Alex Neve
    Secretary General