Baird pleads for Canadian on death row in Iran

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird is appealing to the Iranian government to grant clemency to Hamid Ghassemi-Shall, a Canadian who faces the death penalty in Tehran.

Execution of Toronto man 'may be carried out imminently,' government worries

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird is appealing to the Iranian government to grant clemency to a Canadian who is facing the death sentence in Tehran.

Hamid Ghassemi-Shall, 42, was arrested in 2008 while visiting his family, and was later charged with espionage.

He was sentenced to death in 2009. An Iranian court has rejected an appeal.

"Canada is gravely concerned by indications that the execution of Mr. Ghassemi-Shall may be carried out imminently," Baird said in a joint statement Sunday with Diane Ablonczy, the junior minister for foreign affairs.

Baird called on the Iranian government to grant clemency to Ghassemi-Shall on compassionate and humanitarian grounds and to respect its international human rights obligations.

The Iranian-born Ghassemi-Shall emigrated to Canada after Iran's 1979 revolution, and most recently lived in Toronto.

He is awaiting execution in Tehran's notorious Evin prison, where another Canadian — photojournalist Zahra Kazemi of Montreal — was beaten, raped and killed in 2003. 

Another Canadian resident, web programmer Saeed Malekpour of Richmond Hill, Ont., is also on death row in Evin prison. Malekpour, who was born in Iran, is charged with setting up a website that was used to post pornography. He maintains his innocence and says he was tortured into confessing to crimes against Islam.

Canada had a long-standing policy of seeking clemency for its citizens on death row in foreign lands, until the Conservatives revoked it in 2007 in the case of Ronald Smith, the only Canadian on death row in the United States. But that was a case of respecting the judicial system in a "democratic country that supports the rule of law," the government said at the time.

With files from CBC News