The Canadian government says it is “actively engaged” in the case of an imprisoned Iranian-Canadian professor who has been hospitalized in Iran following her arrest in June.
In a statement for release on Tuesday morning, Homa Hoodfar's family said Iranian officials have told them that the 65-year-old Concordia University professor has been hospitalized and struggles to walk or talk.
Hoodfar holds Canadian, Iranian and Irish citizenship, according to her niece and legal representative in Canada, Amanda Ghahremani.
Hoodfar, who was born in Iran but has lived in Montreal for 30 years, had travelled to visit family and conduct research in Iran in February. She was arrested in March shortly before she was due to return to Montreal.
She was then released on bail but was rearrested on June 6 and placed in solitary confinement in Iran's Evin prison, charged with collaborating with a hostile government against national security and of propaganda against the state.
In the statement released Tuesday, Hoodfar's family says they're concerned she isn't receiving her medicine regularly.
Her health is poor, her family said, describing her as being "very disoriented, severely weakened" and suffering from chronic tension headaches.
"Given the alarming news of Homa’s hospitalisation and declining health, we are left with no choice but to publicise these travesties of justice widely, as it has become clear that the authorities are not prioritising her health and do not intend to respect Homa’s due process rights under Iranian law," Ghahremani said.
Health problems unknown
In an interview on CTV News Channel, Ghahremani said that the family is worried about Hoodfar’s “physical and psychological” well-being.
“We don’t know why she was hospitalized, we don’t know a lot of details that we would like to know to ensure her safety is OK.” Ghahremani said her aunt has been “completely isolated” and that her lawyer had only one “very brief” visit with her since she was placed in the prison.
With no access to her file, her family and lawyer have “very little information about her circumstances, her health and also the nature of the accusations against her,” Ghahremani said.
In a statement to CTV News, Global Affairs Canada said that the government, including Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion and Parliamentary Secretary Omar Alghabra, “are very concerned about the health, well-being and detention of Dr. Hoodfar.
"We are actively engaged on this case and working closely with Amanda Ghahremani and her family as they endure this terrible ordeal.”
Family: Iran overstepping law
Hoodfar’s family claims Iran has violated several of its own laws in its treatment of Hoodfar.
The alleged violations range from announcing her arrest and charges through the media before informing Hoodfar or her lawyer; as well as her lawyer’s numerous requests to post her bail that have been ignored, the family says; to her continued solitary confinement; and a denial of regular visits from her family and consultation with her lawyer.
Gharemani says the family was asked by Iran's government to "tone down" its comments in the media to allow the legal process to take its course, but the family felt it was unable to keep quiet any longer.
"The family respected this request in good faith in the hopes that judicial authorities would, at the very least, follow their own laws and procedures and grant Homa’s lawyer access to her and her case file," said Ghahremani.
"Instead, the court has blatantly and repeatedly violated Iran’s own laws, and the judicial authorities seem unwilling or unable to do anything about this."
Politicians, groups call for release
Hoodfar’s family says they’re worried that the prolonged time period spent in solitary confinement will "bring her to a point to make a false confession."
Her family is asking both the Canadian and Irish governments to help secure Hoodfar's release.
In Tuesday’s statement, Global Affairs said that “in the absence of diplomatic representation of our own, we are also relying on, and working through, our protecting power to examine every option and press the case.
“The challenges posed by the absence of a diplomatic presence cannot be underestimated. Nothing replaces direct representation when it comes to protecting and advocating for Canada's own people abroad.”
Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada, called on Iran to “immediately and unconditionally” release Hoodfar.
“Tragically, the condemnable treatment of Dr. Hoodfar occurs against a bleak and deteriorating human rights backdrop in Iran where authorities are engaged in a crackdown against women’s rights activists and researchers, as well as routinely using denial of healthcare as a means of securing coerced ‘confessions’ from prisoners held on bogus and illegal grounds,” Neve said.
NDP Foreign Affairs Critic Hélène Laverdière issued a statement demanding Hoodfar’s release and “calling on the Liberal government to take action immediately.”
For the Conservatives, human rights critic David Anderson and Foreign Affairs critic Peter Kent said in a joint statement saying the Liberals must “begin to take Homa Hoodfar’s situation seriously.”
“Before being elected, the Liberals stood for strong sanctions and regime change in Iran - a regime that has long-demonstrated complete disregard for freedom of expression, freedom of association, the rule of law and the human rights of its own citizens,” they said.
“Now they seem only interested in cozying up to a regime that openly violates international human rights standards,” the Conservatives' statement goes on. “This is typical Liberal hypocrisy. Canadians rightly remain skeptical of Justin Trudeau’s plan to end sanctions and ‘re-engage’ with a regime that cannot be trusted on human rights.”
With files from The Canadian Press