By Gloria Nafziger, Campaigner, Refugees and Migrants
On Thursday October 10, Hamid Ghassemi Shall came home to Canada.
Hamid Ghassemi-Shall spent the past 5- ½ years in Iran’s notorious Evin prison, on charges of espionage, and faced the death penalty. He was released from prison September 23, along with 80 other political prisoners. Hamid’s release came on the heels of releases in the previous week of 11 political prisoners, including prominent human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh on whose behalf Amnesty International campaigned relentlessly.
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All of these releases came in advance of recently elected Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s visit to the United Nations on October 8 where he made his first speech to the UN.
Ghassemi-Shall’s return to Canada provides an opportunity to celebrate, and renews the belief that public campaigning on behalf of individuals can make a difference. Hamid said that in his darkest moment, his hope was renewed knowing that his wife in Canada and family in Iran were doing everything possible to ensure that his nightmare would come to an end.
Throughout the time he was detained Amnesty International members across Canada wrote hundreds of letters and signed tens of thousands of petitions and post cards, calling on the Iranian authorities for his release.
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The election of President Rouhani has not led to changes in Iran’s reliance on the death penalty, nor opened the door to freedom for other political prisoners. While Hamid Ghassemi Shall is home; thousands of others remain behind bars in Iran, including Abdolfattah Soltani, a human rights lawyer who once defended Hamid, and Saeed Malekpour, a Canadian permanent resident.
Saeed Malekpour was originally sentenced to death after a web based program he developed was used by others to post pornographic images to the internet. He reports he was tortured while held in solitary confinement in Evin prison. His death sentence was recently reduced to life imprisonment. Amnesty International is calling for his unconditional release, if he is being held solely for the creation of his web based program.
Amnesty International will continue to campaign on behalf of other Canadian citizens who remain imprisoned abroad following grossly unfair trials including Huseyin Celil and Bashir Makhtal.
Huseyin Celil – Detained in China
Huseyin Celil is an indigenous Uighur from the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR) of the People’s Republic of China. While visiting his wife’s family in Uzbekistan in 2006, he was detained by Uzbek police and deported to China without the consent of the Canadian government. Mr. Celil was sentenced to life imprisonment in China following an unfair trial, because he advocated for democratic and religious rights for Uighur Muslims in China. His wife and children live in Hamilton Ontario.
Bashir Makhtal – Detained in Ethiopia
Canadian citizen Bashir Makhtal, imprisoned in Ethiopia, also hopes that someday he will be able to come home to Canada. Bashir Makhtal was arrested in Kenya in 2006 and illegally transferred to Ethiopia. He was held in secret detention, with no access to lawyers, family or Canadian consular officials. Eventually he was accused of providing support to an armed group, the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) and sentenced to life imprisonment after a grossly unfair trial in 2009.
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Canadian citizen faces life in prison after unfair trial in Ethiopia. Take action
Demand a fair trial for Canadian citizen Huseyin Celil. Take action
Overturn jail sentence and release human rights lawyer. Take action
WATCH VIDEO – Hamid welcomed home to Canada
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