Wednesday 21 February 2018

Iran releases Canadian-Iranian professor held in prison since June

Reports said a Canadian-Iranian professor has been freed from prison and flown out of Iran
Reports said a Canadian-Iranian professor has been freed from prison and flown out of Iran

A retired Canadian-Iranian professor has been released from prison in Iran on "humanitarian grounds" and flown out of the country, it has been reported.

The decision to release Homa Hoodfar ends her months of detention alongside other dual nationals swept up by hard-liners in the security services.

Mrs Hoodfar returned to Canada via Oman, according to the state-run IRNA news agency. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hailed her release in a statement, thanking Italy, Switzerland and Oman for their help in the matter.

Mrs Hoodfar, 65, was questioned and barred from leaving Iran in March after travelling to the country to visit family following the death of her husband.

Her family said she has been held in Tehran's Evin Prison since June. Until recently, she taught anthropology and sociology at Montreal's Concordia University.

In July, Iran announced indictments for Mrs Hoodfar and three others, without providing any details about the accusations. In recent weeks, her supporters described her health as deteriorating while she was in solitary confinement, saying she was "barely able to walk or talk".

Mrs Hoodfar's supporters had pressed diplomats to discuss her case during the recent United Nations General Assembly in New York. Canadian foreign minister Stephane Dion met with Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on the sidelines of the meeting on Wednesday, state television reported.

Canada has not had an embassy in Iran since 2012, when its then-government cut diplomatic ties over Tehran's contested nuclear programme and other issues.

Mr Trudeau said Canadians are "relieved that Dr Hoodfar has been released from jail and will soon be reunited with her family, friends and colleagues".

"I would also like to recognise the cooperation of those Iranian authorities who facilitated her release and repatriation. They understand that cases like these impede more productive relations," he added.

Iran does not recognise dual nationalities, meaning those detained cannot receive consular assistance. In previous cases, dual nationals have faced secret charges in closed-door hearings in Iran's Revolutionary Court, which handles cases involving alleged attempts to overthrow the government.

Several dual nationals have been arrested in the year since world powers reached a nuclear deal with Iran to limit its uranium enrichment in exchange for the lifting of crippling economic sanctions. Analysts have suggested Iranian hard-liners hope to use them as bargaining chips with the West.

Others known to be held include Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian woman sentenced to five years in prison on allegations of planning the "soft toppling" of Iran's government while travelling with her young daughter.


Press Association

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