Jailed journalist acquitted on minor charges: McTeague

Liberal MP Dan McTeague says journalist Maziar Bahari, who is accused of being a Canadian spy in Iran, has been acquitted of minor charges but remains in a Tehran prison.

Alleged Canadian spy remains in prison

Liberal MP Dan McTeague says journalist Maziar Bahari, who is accused of being a Canadian spy in Iran, has been acquitted of minor charges but remains in a Tehran prison.

Maziar Bahari, a Canadian-Iranian journalist working for Newsweek, remains in a prison in Iran, accused of spying. (Canadian Press)

"He was charged with offences of inciting political uprisings," McTeague told CBC News on Sunday, citing unidentified sources. "He went to trial, and on or about the 11th or 14th of August argued his position without the benefit of a lawyer and was acquitted."

Bahari, a dual Canadian-Iranian citizen, was covering the presidential election in Iran for Newsweek magazine when he was taken June 21 from the Tehran apartment he shares with his mother by a group of men believed to be security officials during a crackdown on protesters and foreign media.

Since then, Bahari has been denied access to his lawyer and allowed only two visits from his mother, under close supervision.

"It's just been very tough," said Bahari's wife, Paola Gourley, who is pregnant with the couple's first child in London.

"There is always a guard present on the telephone and also when they visit him in the prison and all conversation has to be limited to the health of family members," said Gourley, who is in constant contact with her mother-in-law. "That was a condition of the meeting and so it is very difficult to find out exactly how Maziar is."

Cannon spoke out

The Canadian government has tried to get the journalist out of detention.

In late August, while at the Friends of Democratic Pakistan Conference in Turkey, Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon pressed his Iranian counterpart, Manouchehr Mottaki, to release Bahari.

"Minister Cannon reiterated Canada's grave concern over Iran's disrespect for basic human rights, unacceptable treatment and continued unjustified detention of Mr. Bahari," spokesperson Natalie Sarafian said in a statement from the minister's office Saturday.

"Canada has previously called for the release of Mr. Bahari and demanded immediate consular access, full legal rights, his protection and clarification of the allegations against him."

Iran doesn't recognize dual citizenship, and since the death of Iranian-Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi in an Iranian prison in 2003, Canada's relations with the country have soured.

Liberal consular services critc, MP Dan McTeague speaks with CBC-TV. ((CBC))
McTeague said the federal government needs to do more.

"When it comes to protecting and defending and advocating on behalf of Canadians abroad, — unlike most Western nations — Canada gets a failing grade," he said.

The only thing delaying Bahari's release now is a guarantee by the Canadian government that the journalist "was at no time involved with any official Canadian government activity within Iran," said McTeague, who is the Liberals' consular services critic. The federal government declined to comment about its next move.

With files from The Canadian Press