Toronto-based filmmaker freed from Iranian prison after year in detention

Parastoo Azizi/Facebook

Family members say a Toronto-based filmmaker has been released from an Iranian prison after more than a year in detention on apparent political grounds.

Mostafa Azizi’s son Arash said Saturday on Facebook the Canadian permanent resident was released as part of an amnesty deal.

“Finally after more than a year of nightmares!! After more than a year of struggles!! We shall sleep calm tonight!!! My father is free!” daughter Parastoo posted to Facebook along with a photo of a smiling Azizi.

However, Parastoo Azizi told Global News that as long as her father remains in Iran the situation remains “very risky.”

She said she feared he “might be arrested again or lose his passport.”

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Azizi, who is in his early 50’s, was arrested in February 2015 after returning to Iran to visit his ailing father, according to advocacy group PEN Canada.

He was sentenced that June to eight years in prison on charges of insulting the country’s leaders and national security offences.

Gloria Nafziger with Amnesty International welcomed the news, saying Azizi was convicted for “peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression.”

“He should now be provided with the right to unconditionally return to Canada if he so chooses,” she said in an email.

PEN and Amnesty International criticized the arrest, saying Azizi was detained on free-speech grounds. The groups said the charges were apparently over social media posts he made before arriving in Iran.

Azizi’s family had been concerned for his health due to several pre-existing medial conditions. He had been living in Canada since 2011.

A Global Affairs Canada spokeswoman said Ottawa is “aware of reports of the release of a Canadian permanent resident from detention in Iran” and called the human rights situation there a “serious concern.”

But as Canada shuttered its embassy and severed ties with Iran four years ago — ties the Trudeau government has pledged to rebuild — there is little federal diplomats can do.

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“As our embassy is closed until further notice‎, our ability to engage with local authorities and provide consular assistance is severely limited,” Francois Lasalle said in an email late Saturday.

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