The Guardian: An Iranian-Canadian man convicted of espionage and having links with an opposition group is facing imminent execution in Iran.
Amnesty International has called on Canadian prime minister to intervene in case of Hamid Ghassemi-Shallo
By Saeed Kamali Dehghan
An Iranian-Canadian man convicted of espionage and having links with an opposition group is facing imminent execution in Iran.
Hamid Ghassemi-Shall, 44, returned to Iran from Canada in May 2008 to visit his elderly mother and was detained on suspicion of gathering information for the Iranian militant group Mujahideen e-Khalq (MEK). The Iranian leadership considers the MEK its staunch enemy, and the US has listed the group as a terrorist organisation.
He spent 18 months in solitary confinement at Evin prison in Tehran, with no access to his family or legal representation. His wife, Anatonella Mega, said Ghassemi-Shall was tried in 2009 in a court hearing that lasted a few minutes.
He was convicted and given a death sentence on the basis of what officials said was an email to his brother Alborz in which, they said, he asked for some information to be collected for the MEK.
Ghassemi-Shall’s family say he neither wrote nor sent such an email. Alborz died in prison in 2010 from stomach cancer, according to officials.
Mega said: “After months of solitary confinement, the authorities picked him [Hamid] up from his cell and put him in a trial without any lawyer or prosecutor.
“Hamid’s sister, who went to see him in jail on Sunday, was told that his death sentence is due to be administered. He can be executed at any time now.”
Iran has refused to give Ghassemi-Shall consular access because it does not recognise dual citizenship and Iranians who hold other nationalities are required to enter their home country using only their Iranian passport.
Alex Neve, the secretary general of Amnesty International Canada, has called for the Canadian prime minister, Stephen Harper, to intervene. “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,” Neve said in a letter to Harper.
Marina Nemat, an Iranian author who has written a book about her time in Evin prison and has campaigned on behalf of prisoners including Ghassemi-Shall, said: “All signs and news coming from Iran indicate that he is in imminent danger.
“Unfortunately, the current Canadian government has been very slow in launching efforts to bring Hamid home. Even though Iran does not recognise dual citizenship, there have been a few cases of American-Iranians that were imprisoned in Iran and were let go. I urge Mr Harper to write a personal letter to the Ayatollah Khamenei and ask for Hamid’s release on humanitarian grounds.
“There doesn’t seem to be any real evidence against Hamid, and the family and the lawyer don’t even know what the exact charges against him are. He has been in prison for more than four years now.”
But on Monday, John Baird, Canada’s foreign affairs minister, and Diane Ablonczy, the minister of state of foreign affairs (Americas and consular affairs), issued the following statement concerning Ghassemi-Shall: “Canada is gravely concerned by indications that the execution of Mr Ghassemi-Shall may be carried out imminently. Canada urgently appeals to the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to grant clemency to Mr Ghassemi-Shall on compassionate and humanitarian grounds.
“We urge Iran to reverse its current course and to adhere to its international human rights obligations.”