Saeed Malekpour: the prisoner left behind in Iran

Apr 12
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Saeed Malekpour, prisoner of conscience
Saeed Malekpour, prisoner of conscience

Toronto Star
Monday, 11 April 2016

When Maryam Malekpour heard that Canadian resident Mostafa Azizi was released from Evin Prison last weekend, she rejoiced for his family.

But there is no joy for her brother, Saeed Malekpour, who has been left behind in the same prison, trapped within the tentacles of the Iranian regime and serving a life sentence on charges widely denounced as spurious.

Like Azizi — a filmmaker and former Torontonian who was pardoned after a year behind bars on charges of insulting Supreme Leader Ali Khamanei — Malekpour is also a Canadian resident.

In spite of the election of a more moderate Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani,Malekpour has not been freed after eight years of torture, interrogation and brutal jail conditions.

Also worrying for Malekpour and his family, says Maryam, is the Trudeau government’s apparent lack of interest in pressing Iran for his release.

“Saeed is so depressed now,” she said in a phone interview. “He was hoping for a pardon or at least a furlough from prison, which others have had. But Iran rejected that. We believe that if the Canadian government doesn’t advocate for him, there will be very little hope.”

Malekpour, an engineer who emigrated to Victoria B.C. in 2004, was awaiting citizenship when he made an urgent trip to visit his dying father in October 2008. In spite of lack of evidence, he was arrested on charges of managing a pornographic website at the instigation of western countries plotting to corrupt the morals of Iranians.

Response to Maryam’s pleas for help from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion came as a blow, she said. “I was happy when the Liberals were elected, now I am deeply disappointed.”

In a letter to the family, Dion answered with “sincere regret” at Saeed’s plight and said Canada would use re-engagement with Iran to “support efforts to advance human rights.” But he warned that Ottawa would have “limited” ability to intervene on his behalf “because he is an Iranian citizen.” There was no mention of his Canadian resident status, or prospective citizenship.

It comes at a time when Canada has pledged to re-engage with Iran and move toward reopening its embassy in Tehran, something Iran favours.

But, said Maryam Nayeb Yazdi, a Toronto-based human rights campaigner, “this takes us right back to 2010. It’s as though (Ottawa has) never heard of Saeed’s case.”

Under the Harper government, the House of Commons passed an unprecedented unanimous motion to hold the Iranian authorities accountable if anything happened to Malekpour, who was then under a death sentence. The department of foreign affairs, as well as Liberal and Conservative MPs, made numerous references to his plight, and he was adopted as a prisoner of conscience.

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