Yukon Senator Calls for the Release of Iranian political prisoner Amir Amirgholi and salutes four Iranian-Canadian women for their work in promoting human rights

11 May 2016, Ottawa, ON – Yukon’s Senator, Daniel Lang joined his colleagues in the Senate on Tuesday in calling attention to the human rights abuses in Iran and the detention of numerous political prisoners. Specifically, Lang raised the plight of Ali Amir Amirgholi, a 33-year-old human rights activist and former university student who is currently held in Ward 8 of Tehran's notorious Evin Prison.

According to one survivor of the Evin Prison, Ms. Shabnam Assadollahi: “There is only one experience worse than being tortured; having to listen to others scream and beg, not for their lives but for their death. . . . At night, I would count around 60- 70 bullets, which meant 60 to 70 souls had been executed and I was hearing the last shot they would give the victim in the head.”

Senator Lang noted that “despite Amir's being a prisoner of conscience, he is reportedly being held in a cell with dangerous prisoners who suffer from life- threatening diseases, rather than a cell for political prisoners. Colleagues, if the Iranian authorities have their way, Amir will be a prisoner for the next 20 years, if he survives his confinement.”

The Revolutionary Court in Tehran, presided over by Judge Salavati, sentenced this non-violent activist to a 21-year prison term on the basis of outlandish charges, such as insulting religious sanctities, insulting the supreme leader and propaganda against the regime. In 2014, The Guardian, in the U.K., identified Judge Salavati as one of Iran's most corrupt judges owing to his leading role in cracking down on free speech and pro-democracy activities.

Through his peaceful activism in 2014, Amir was defending the human rights of Iranians and participated in a peaceful protest outside the United Nations' office in Tehran in solidarity with the people of Kobane, Syria, who were then under siege. A couple of months later, Amir was arrested by Iranian authorities and transferred to a solitary confinement cell in Evin Prison, where he endured two months of interrogation and torture.

Lang noted that “In light of this torture and the unreasonable political sentence of 21 years in jail for standing up for democracy and human rights, and countless similar human rights abuses in Iran, I call upon the Senate to pay close attention to the human rights abuses in Iran, and particularly the plight of imprisoned pro-democracy activists like Amir Amirgholi. Mr. Amirgholi is a courageous man, not a criminal, one who is willing to sacrifice his life to stand up for what is right and just.”

In addition to raising the case of Mr. Amirgholi, Lang saluted the work of four Iranian Canadian women, Ms. Nazanin Afshin-Jam, Ms. Homa Arjomand, Ms. Sayeh Hassan, and Ms. Shabnam Assadollahi, all of whom were very fortunate to escape to Canada from the Ayatollah's Iran and are actively leading efforts nationally and internationally to promote Human Rights and democracy.

Ms. Nazanin Afshin-Jam is an international human rights activist and author and co-founder of Stop Child Executions. She has utilized her role as a pageant winner to become a voice for those who need to be heard. She continues to champion causes, which makes all Canadians proud.

Ms. Homa Arjomand continues the struggle for freedom, supporting Iranian children's and women's rights. She also works with battered women and girls in Canada through the Let's Talk program with abused children. She is also the coordinator of the International Campaign Against Shari'a Court in Canada. Ms. Arjomand appeared before the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence last year during our study on radicalization and threats to Canada. She was most eloquent in her presentation and in describing her escape from Iran to a UN refugee camp and then on to Canada.

Ms. Sayeh Hassan is a prominent criminal defence lawyer and pro-Iranian democracy advocate who collaborates with Iranians and other transnational activists to advance the cause of human rights and democracy in her oppressed ancestral homeland. Through her blog focusing on the pro-democracy movement and regime changes in Iran, she stays in close contact with activists in Iran and retains contact with various human rights and pro- democracy organizations abroad. She regularly speaks at conferences and has appeared on television and radio and in numerous publications in Canada.

Lang noted that at the beginning of these remarks I described life in Evin Prison where Mr. Amirgholi is held. These words were from a brave survivor, Ms. Shabnam Assadollahi, who is here with us today in the gallery. Ms. Shabnam Assadollahi is an outstanding democracy activist who writes and broadcasts in Canada. Through her international network, she exposes clandestine Iranian influence activity in our country.

In conclusion, Lang stated “as we bring much-needed attention to the issues in Iran through this inquiry, let us urgently redouble our support for Ali Amir Amirgholi. In doing so, we salute courageous Canadian women of Persian heritage who are leading human rights efforts nationally and internationally to help bring attention to Iran's vile and brutal regime and the plight of individuals like Mr. Amir Amirgholi.”

Full statement: http://www.parl.gc.ca/Content/Sen/Chamber/421/Debates/034db_2016-05-10-e.htm#41

Photo attached of the Honourable Daniel Lang and the Honourable Linda Frum, meeting with former Evin Prisoner and Canadian human rights activist, Ms. Shabnam Assadollahi in the Senate following the inquiry into Human Rights Abused in Iran.

-30- For more information, contact Senator Daniel Lang 613-947-6234

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