Global Toronto, April 30: “A Living Hell” – Two Men From Canada Await Execution in Iran

Please take action for Saeed Malekpour after reading and watching! (Report ends at 9:08)
The article is below. The video report can be seen here.

They are arrested, tortured and sentenced to death. Every twelve hours, someone is executed in Iran. They die by hanging, firing squad and even stoning. It is the country with the highest execution rate in the world and two men from Canada are on Iran’s death list.

Hamid Ghassemi-Shall and Saeed Malekpour languish in Iran’s notorious Evin prison, awaiting execution. Here in Canada, a world away, their wives fight desperately to save the men they love. They shared their stories with 16:9 The Bigger Picture.

Antonella Mega met her husband Hamid in a shoe store here in Canada. They’d been married for 12 years when Hamid went to Tehran to visit his ailing mother.

“The intention was he would come home, come back to Toronto in June a few weeks later,” Mega told 16:9.

Three years have passed and Ghassemi-Shall is still not home. He was arrested in Iran and accused of being a spy.

Fatima Eftekhari and Saeed Malekpour met in Iran at a chess competition at university. They got married and came to Canada to pursue education. They quickly came to love the sense of freedom they felt here, but three years ago when Saeed returned Iran to visit his dying father and that freedom was abruptly taken away.

“Three days after his arrival in Tehran, he just disappeared,” Fatima told 16:9.

A computer programmer, Saeed had created a program to upload photos to the internet. Someone used that program to post pornographic images to the web and Saeed was accused of running an obscene website.

Confined at the notorious Evin prison in Tehran, both men likely endure almost unimaginable torture and humiliation. Payam Akhavan is a law professor at McGill University, a former UN war crimes prosecutor and co-founder of the Iran Human Rights Documentation Centre. He told 16:9 Evin is like hell on earth.

“Electrocutions, beatings, rapes subjecting people to inhumane unsanitary conditions, depriving them of medical treatment, adequate food,” he said. “The purpose really is to humiliate, terrorize and to break down the will of the prisoner.”

Both men were born in Iran but both live in Canada. Hamid is a citizen. Saeed is a permanent resident. In Iran, that doesn’t mean much. The men are considered Iranian and their status in Canada isn’t recognized. Without government intervention, there is little hope for their release.

Eftekhari says the government has done little more for her than express concern.

“Deep concern is not strong enough to save a human life on death row in Iran unless there is direct diplomatic pressure,” she told 16:9. “We are dealing with a government that has no problem killing people. How can we expect them to not kill my husband?”

Consular Affairs Minister, Diane Ablonczy declined 16:9’s requests for an interview, providing instead a written statement:

“Iran has repeatedly refused Canada’s request to allow us to visit Mr. Ghassemi-Shall and Mr. Malekpour and provide consular assistance to them on humanitarian grounds,” it said. “We continue to press Iranian authorities for due process, fair treatment and consular access, including clemency.”

16:9 wanted to find out exactly what the government is doing to “press Iranian authorities,” so 16:9 correspondent Mark McAllister caught up with Prime Minister Stephen Harper on the campaign trail. The Prime Minister ignored 16:9’s question about what should be done about Canadians on death row in Iran.

Though they feel similarly ignored, Mega and Eftekhari aren’t giving up. Eftekhari told 16:9 she wrote to the Prime Minister for help, sending him eight copies of the same letter with no response. And, she faces an even bigger bureaucratic obstacle.

“[The] Canadian government keep pushing us back by saying that we don’t have any obligation towards you since you are just a permanent resident, you aren’t a citizen,” she told 16:9.

For her part, earlier this year when Mega was informed Hamid’s pardon was denied, she phoned Foreign Affairs to intervene on her behalf.

“Their tone would lead you to believe we were going to a funeral,” she told 16:9. “Hamid has to come home. He hasn’t done anything to deserve imprisonment. We can’t have this defeatist attitude.”

While politicians argue over what to do, Mega and Eftekhari face long days and longer nights, terrified that the next phone call will bear the news they dread.

“My hope is that Hamid is released and that he’s allowed to come home to Canada safe and sound,” Mega told 16:9. “Please bring my husband back to Canada. I need him here, please.”

© Copyright (c) CW Media Inc.

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  2. Press Release: Permanent Canadian Resident, Saeed Malekpour, at Risk of Execution FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE January 30, 2011 CANADIAN PERMANENT RESIDENT AT…
  3. Canada Calls on Iran to Respect Human Rights of All Its People (No. 2 – January 1, 2011 – 12:15 p.m. ET)…
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