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Toronto Man Freed From Death Row In Iran
September 24, 2013
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Hamid Ghassemi-Shall (Photo: Handout)

In 2008, Hamid Ghassemi-Shall was arrested in Iran and charged with espionage. The following year, the Iranian-Canadian was sentenced to death. Now his wife says he has been released. 

Antonella Mega, Ghassemi-Shall's wife, said Monday night that she had spoken with her husband by phone, CP reports. She was unsure when he would be leaving Iran.

"I spoke to him very briefly and he is just happy that he is released," Mega said. You can hear a full interview with Mega on today's CBC Metro Morning. She told host Matt Galloway she was "completely elated" to hear her husband had been freed.

Over the years, Mega has worked tirelessly to secure her husband's freedom. In 2010, the Toronto Star reported on her failed attempts to meet with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad when he was in New York for speeches at the United Nations. She hoped to deliver a letter of appeal, but was not able to access Iran's then-President. 

Then in April 2012, she met with officials at Tehran's Evin prison, and was told her husband would be hanged imminently. After that meeting, Prime Minister Stephen Harper warned Iran that "the whole world will be watching." Amnesty International also organized a letter-writing campaign on Ghassemi-Shall's behalf. 

Ghassemi-Shall was arrested after travelling to Iran in May 2008 to visit his mother, who was sick. While he was there, his older brother Alborz was arrested, and Ghassemi-Shall's passport was seized. When he went to a police station to pick it up, he was also placed under arrest.

In late 2009, Ghassemi-Shall was convicted of espionage for Mujahideen e-Khalq (MEK) on the basis of an email he allegedly sent to his brother asking for information on the MEK's behalf. His family denies that the email was written or sent. Alborz died in prison in January 2010, with Iranian authorities attributing the death to stomach cancer.

Canadian government officials issued a brief statement following Ghassemi-Shall's release.

"We are aware of reports that a Canadian imprisoned in Iran has been released," said Adria Minsky, a spokeswoman for the minister of state for consular affairs, Lynne Yelich. "While we are relieved by this development, for privacy reasons, we cannot comment further at this time." 

Ghassemi-Shall is not the only Canadian facing the death penalty in Iran. Saeed Malekpour, an Iranian-born web designer from Richmond Hill, Ontario was sentenced to death in early 2012 on charges of disseminating pornography. Canadian citizen Hossein Derakhshan, meanwhile, is serving a 20-year sentence for his role in helping Iranian dissidents create their own blogs.

Hossein sat down with George for an interview back in 2006. 

Via CBC News


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