Feds issue plea for Canadian on death row in Iran
Published Sunday, April 15, 2012 10:37PM EDT
The federal government issued a plea Sunday for the life of a Canadian on death row in Iran, over fears his execution "may be carried out imminently."
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Diane Ablonczy issued a joint statement asking Iran to release and halt the execution of Hamid Ghassemi-Shall.
Baird and Ablonczy said "Canada is gravely concerned" that all indications point to Ghassemi-Shall's imminent execution. The statement did not specify the nature of those indications.
"Canada urgently appeals to the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to grant clemency to Mr. Ghassemi-Shall on compassionate and humanitarian grounds," the statement said.
"We urge Iran to reverse its current course, and adhere to its international human rights obligations."
Ghassemi-Shall has been imprisoned in Iran for four years. According to Amnesty International Canada, Ghassemi-Shall is facing espionage-related charges, accusations that he denies.
According to a website dedicated to his case, freehamid.org, Ghassemi-Shall left Toronto in May 2008 to visit his mother in Tehran.
While he was there, his brother, Alborz Ghassemi, was arrested, and Iranian authorities seized Hamid's passports, credit cards and other items. Alborz Ghassemi subsequently died in custody.
Ghassemi-Shall was arrested when he made arrangements to retrieve his papers from Iranian officials.
His wife, Antonella Mega, denies that her husband is a spy.
Mega said Sunday that her morale is low after fighting for years to secure her husband's release.
"I'm really praying to God that (Iranian officials) will do the right thing," Mega told CTV News.
In a letter to the Canadian government dated February 22, 2011, Secretary General Alex Neve said the organization is "gravely concerned that he has been subject to torture and ill-treatment," and called on the Canadian government to intervene on his behalf.