Sen. Linda Frum, who rallied her colleagues, said that Iran’s unlawful detention and execution of political prisoners — in particular, Canadian residents — is unacceptable.
“As a member of the Senate of Canada I condemn the Iranian regime’s deplorable abuse of human rights and call for the immediate release of unlawfully held prisoners” Frum said in the Red Chamber. “Canada will not stay silent on these issues.”
Each of the 25 senators delivered a speech detailing the case of one jailed Iranian. Among them was Saeed Malekpour, a 35-year-old website designer and Canadian resident who has been condemned to death. He was convicted of “desecrating and insulting Islam” after software he developed was used on pornographic websites, without his knowledge.
Campaigners for Malekpour’s release say he has been tortured with electric shocks and beaten with cables while in captivity.
Relations between Canada and Iran are at their lowest point in decades, as Canada and its allies step up sanctions in a so-far futile attempt to curb Tehran’s nuclear ambitions. On Jan. 31, Canada ratcheted up sanctions again, freezing assets of Iranian officials and entities.
Alidad Mafinezam, a spokesman for the Iranian-Canadian Congress, said members of his community are pleased the senators are speaking up and that their cries for help are starting to be heard.
“There are a number of Canadian residents currently languishing in Iranian prisons,” he said. “We need to raise awareness of this problem.”
Mafinezam said Iranian Canadians are increasingly fearful of being slapped by arbitrary or trumped up charges if they return to Iran to visit.
“It makes Iranian Canadians feel we are not safe travelling there to meet our ailing grandmothers,” he said. “They’ll say you’re a spy also.”
Mafinezam said the Iranian regime is unlikely to be swayed by the senators’ speeches. He said a more effective engagement strategy would be to send a delegation of Canadian lawmakers to Iran, to make their case directly to Iran’s decision makers.