Statement made on 14 June 2012 by Senator Art Eggleton
Hon. Art Eggleton:
Honourable senators, Senator Frum asked me to second this motion, which I am pleased to do. In the normal course of events, the proposer would speak first and the seconder would speak after. However, Senator Frum could not be here today to move her motion, and I cannot be here on Monday when she does that.
Honourable senators, earlier this year Senator Frum launched a series of remarks that were made by a number of us on both sides of the chamber with respect to the terrible human rights abuses that occur at the hands of the regime in Iran. We talked at that time individually about different prisoners who were being held. The person that I talked about on February 15 was Hamid Ghassemi-Shall, a Toronto businessman; and I had met his wife. I knew of the situation at Evin Prison in Iran where he was being held and made representation at that time through the regular diplomatic circles. He is still there.
Mr. Ghassemi-Shall left Iran in 1979 during the Iranian revolution and came to Canada. He went back many times over some 29 years and had no problem going in and out of the country. Suddenly in 2008, he went to visit an ailing mother in Iran, and they arrested him. They tried to suggest that he was involved in sketchy espionage-related offences, allegations he denied because they have no substance at all.
His brother is a resident of Iran. He served as a naval officer but was against the government in Iran, which I guess had become known. The regime in Iran does not tolerate opposition sentiments, and so the brother was arrested and interrogated. Unfortunately, some 20 months into his imprisonment he died, probably as a result of torture. Certainly, he underwent a lot of that.
Mr. Ghassemi-Shall, the Toronto businessman, was sentenced to death by an Iranian court in 2009. He did not even have the opportunity for a proper defence. He is a Canadian citizen, but because he is also an Iranian, the regime would not recognize him as Canadian and would not allow the Canadian consular services to go anywhere near him. He continues to wait under a death sentence in Evin Prison.
Senator Frum put this motion forward because every now and then stories come out about mass executions that are about to occur; and God forbid Mr. Ghassemi-Shall would be one of them. The honourable senator put this motion forward so that the Senate may express to the government of Iran that we want him freed. We want him to come back to Canada.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.
Senator Eggleton: I understand that a similar motion was adopted in the House of Commons. This motion would become honourable senators' expression of support for his release. I strongly support Senator Frum's motion.