Iran General NewsTop Iranian candidate sued

Top Iranian candidate sued

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Toronto Star: A Toronto-area man who was imprisoned and tortured in Iran has filed a $9 million lawsuit against the
leading candidate in Friday’s Iranian presidential election, and six other men. Toronto Star

Toronto-area man was tortured, jailed
Cleric among 7 named in $9M action

TRACEY TYLER AND KHOSRO SHERIMANIE

A Toronto-area man who was imprisoned and tortured in Iran has filed a $9 million lawsuit against the leading candidate in Friday’s Iranian presidential election, and six other men.

If Houshang Bouzari’s case is successful, Canada would join Britain at the forefront of an international movement to end countries’ blanket immunity from liability for torture committed on their soil.

Bouzari says he was kidnapped at gunpoint and tortured in two Iranian prisons for eight months in the early 1990s because he refused to pay a bribe to the then-Iranian president’s son.

In January 1994, Bouzari was driven out of prison and dumped on a Tehran street, after his family paid a ransom of about $3 million (U.S.).

Four years later, he moved to Canada with his wife and children and filed a lawsuit against the Iranian government seeking damages for torture. Two courts ruled against him, however, saying his claim was barred by Canada’s State Immunity Act, which generally prevents a foreign government from being sued in another country’s courts. While there are a handful of exceptions under the act, liability for torture isn’t one of them, the Ontario Court of Appeal said last year. The Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear an appeal.

Bouzari is now suing the individuals he alleges were responsible for his torture, and two recent developments may have given his efforts a boost.

Last October, Britain’s court of appeal ruled that Canadian-born William Sampson and two other men who say they were tortured in Saudi Arabian prisons can sue the individuals they claim were responsible. Sampson’s lawsuit names his interrogators, the prison’s deputy governor and Prince Naif, a member of the Saudi royal family and Saudi Arabia’s former interior minister.

In its unanimous decision, the British high court said it is no longer appropriate to give blanket effect to the concept of state immunity.

Meanwhile, the United Nations Committee on Torture recommended last month that Canada review its compliance with the Convention Against Torture, to ensure that all victims of torture have a right of redress through its civil courts. The convention obliges signatories to provide victims of torture a means to seek compensation.

Although Bouzari pointed to the convention in his previous lawsuit against the Iranian government, the Canadian courts ruled Ottawa’s obligation to provide a means of redress applied only to torture inflicted within Canada, not abroad.

However, if Canada fails to comply with the U.N.’s new recommendation, torture victims could petition the U.N. to find Canada in violation of the human rights treaty, experts say.

“Nobody in any governmental position should be able to use state power and state immunity to torture again with impunity,” Bouzari said in an interview.

Bouzari’s lawsuit, which was filed in the Superior Court of Justice in Toronto on May 30, names Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a prominent cleric who was Iran’s president from 1989 to 1997. Rafsanjani is running again and he has a slim lead in public opinion polls. His backers expect a runoff vote, likely on June 24 or July 1, which they predict he will win.

Rafsanjani is campaigning on a platform of defusing Iran’s standoff with Europe and the U.S. over its nascent nuclear program, which Tehran claims is aimed at developing nuclear power but Washington alleges is to build a bomb.

Also named in Bouzari’s suit is Rafsanjani’s second-eldest son, Mehdi Hashemi, former prosecutor Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei and intelligence officer Ali Falahian. In addition, the suit names three intelligence agents identified as John Doe, Bill Doe and Tom Doe.

Bouzari, who holds a doctorate in physics, was employed as a consultant to an oil sands development in southern Iran when he was abducted 12 years ago this month. He alleges that Hashemi had demanded he pay him $50 million to ensure the project was completed.

The lawsuit claims $5 million on behalf of Bouzari, $1 million each on behalf of his wife and two children and $1 million in punitive and aggravated damages.

Tracey Tyler is the Star’s legal affairs reporter. Khosro Sherimanie is a special correspondent.

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