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Speech on the inquiry of the Honourable Senator Frum (Human Rights Abuses in Iran)

 

Honourable senators, multiple Iranian sources have reported that the election of a more moderate Iranian president in 2013 has not helped improve the human rights situation in the country. Despite the change in leadership, hundreds of Iranians remain behind bars as political prisoners, many of them enduring torture and long durations in solitary confinement.

I wish to share with you my particular concern for Mr. Saeed Shirzad, a prisoner of conscience who was detained in Raja'i Shahr Prison, regarded as one of Iran's harshest jails. A non- violent civil rights activist, Saeed was first arrested in August 2012 along with dozens of others for volunteering in an independent initiative that provided relief to earthquake victims of the East Azerbaijan province of Iran.

Saeed was released after 19 days of detention and continued his peaceful human rights activism. Sources close to him say his advocacy work was focused on defending the rights of child labour workers in Iran and providing educational support to the children of political prisoners.

In June 2014, Iranian authorities arrested him for the second time. According to the Human Rights Activists News Agency, Saeed was first transferred to Evin Prison and then exiled to Raja'i Shahr Prison without any trial, the prison where he currently remains.

Following his arrest, Saeed was reportedly held in solitary confinement for more than two months, where he was subjected to multiple interrogations and physical and psychological torture.

In September 11, 2015, an Iranian court sentenced him to five years in prison for the vague charge of "gathering and colluding against national security," a charge that appears to be directly linked to his peaceful human rights activism, including maintaining contact with the families of political prisoners and his cooperation with the office of the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran.

Honourable senators, various human rights organizations have called for Saeed's immediate release, including Amnesty International, which claims he is being detained solely for his peaceful activism. Please join me and our civil liberty partners in denouncing the arrest and detainment of this unlawfully held prisoner. As a member of the Senate of Canada, I call for his immediate release.