Hamid Ghassemi-Shall has spent the last four years on death row in prison in Tehran, Iran. His wife, Antonella Mega, claims that he has now been released from prison.
Mega received word of her husband's release Monday( Sept. 23) from his sister in Iran. She spoke briefly with him over the phone but did not know when he would return to Toronto where he works as a shoe salesman. She said in a phone interview: “I really don’t have a lot of information. I just know that he’s been released. I’m just delighted. Absolutely delighted. I look forward to seeing him as soon as possible.” Mega had actively campaigned for her husband's release.
For now, she said her husband is staying with family in Tehran. Ghassemi-Shall was arrested in 2008 when he went to visit family. He was charged with espionage, found guilty, and sentenced to death. An appeal was rejected. Ghassemi-Shall emigrated to Canada in 1979 after the Iranian revolution. He had returned to visit family several times before without incident. There has been no news of a second Iranian-Canadian imprisoned in Iran Saeed Malekpour.
Iran announced on Monday (Sept. 23) that it had released 80 prisoners most arrested in earlier political crackdowns, including several political activists and a human rights lawyer. The human rights lawyer is interviewed on the appended video. However two opposition leaders remain under house arrest. The West has constantly criticized Iran for these arrests. The announcement came just a few hours before the new Iranian president Hasan Rouhani left for a UN meeting in New York. Rouhani hopes for a more positive relationship with the US.
Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird welcomed the release of Ghassemi-Shall and told reporters: "We are obviously pleased that he has been able to be back with his family. We want to encourage him obviously to return to Canada immediately before the situation changes."