MONTREAL (AFP) – Canada’s top diplomat Saturday denounced Iran for imposing draconian death sentences and unfair jail terms, urging Tehran’s incoming foreign minister to improve the country’s human rights record.
“I am particularly concerned by the uncertain fate of two Canadians of dual nationality who remain in prison in Iran,” Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon said.
Ottawa was worried about reports that Saeed Malekpour, 35, an Iranian-born Canadian resident, had been sentenced to death, he said. Malekpour, a computer programmer, was taken into custody for allegedly designing an adult website.
Iranian-born Canadian Hamid Ghassemi-Shall, who went to Iran in 2008 to visit his ailing mother, had also been jailed and sentenced to death for alleged crimes against the Iranian state.
Cannon added Canada was also concerned about the fate of US citizens Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, along with Sikeneh Ashtiani and seven Bahai community leaders, including Nasrin Sotoudeh, “who face harsh treatment and disproportionate sentences.”
Ashtiani is an Iranian woman sentenced to death after a conviction of adultery and murder. Her case has drawn widespread international condemnation.
Ottawa also condemned reports of a death sentence slapped against Youcef Nadarkhani, a Christian pastor who renounced his Muslim faith.
The reported death sentence against Nadarkhani is “a grave concern to Canada, as this is a sign that the Iranian people do not enjoy freedom of religion,” Cannon said.
Cannon also said he hoped Iran’s incoming foreign minister, Ali-Akbar Salehi, would signal a change in Iranian human rights policy.
“As we begin a new year, and indeed, a new decade, Canada hopes that Iran’s incoming foreign affairs minister will encourage the country’s authorities to show mercy and compassion to those who are in Iran’s prisons without just cause,” Cannon said.