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Not forgotten: The Canadians wrongly jailed abroad

Photo: Amnesty_Ghassemi_Shall

(NC)—Hamid Ghassemi-Shall spent five-and-a-half years in Iran's notorious Evin prison on charges of espionage, and faced the death penalty. He was released from prison on September 23 and returned to Canada on October 10.

Throughout the time that Ghassemi-Shall was detained, members of the human rights organization Amnesty International ( wrote hundreds of letters and signed tens of thousands of petitions and post cards, calling on the Iranian authorities for his release.

Ghassemi-Shall's return to Canada gave human rights supporters reason to celebrate. In his darkest moment, he said that his hope was renewed knowing that his wife in Canada and family in Iran were doing everything possible to ensure that his nightmare would come to an end.

While this one man is home, thousands of others remain behind bars in Iran, including Abdolfattah Soltani, a human rights lawyer and Saeed Malekpour, a Canadian permanent resident.

Saeed Malekpour was originally sentenced to death after a web-based program he developed was used by others to post pornographic images to the Internet. He has reported being tortured while held in solitary confinement in Evin prison. His death sentence was later reduced to life imprisonment. Amnesty International is calling for his unconditional release if he is being held solely for the creation of his web-based program.

In addition, Amnesty International tells us that they continue to campaign on behalf of other Canadian citizens who remain imprisoned abroad following unfair trials, including Huseyin Celil and Bashir Makhtal.

Huseyin Celil is an indigenous Uighur from the Xinjiang Uighur autonomous region of the People's Republic of China. In 2006, while visiting his wife's family in Uzbekistan, he was detained by Uzbek police and deported to China without the consent of the Canadian government. Mr. Celil was sentenced to life imprisonment following an unfair trial because he advocated for democratic and religious rights for Uighur Muslims in China. His wife and children live in Hamilton, Ontario.

Canadian citizen Bashir Makhtal, imprisoned in Ethiopia, also hopes that someday he will be able to come home to Canada. Bashir Makhtal was arrested in Kenya in 2006 and illegally transferred to Ethiopia. He was held in secret detention, with no access to lawyers, family, or Canadian consular officials. Eventually he was accused of providing support to an armed group, the Ogaden National Liberation Front and sentenced to life imprisonment after an unfair trial in 2009.

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