Two Canadians are making a plea for public support in their efforts to save the lives of a pair of imprisoned philanthropists who may face the death penalty in Iran.
Farzaneh and Dr. Hamid Ghare-Hassanlou are among 28 people who may face execution in connection with the ongoing freedom protests in the Middle Eastern country, sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini.
The couple recently underwent a sham trial on the charge of “spreading corruption on earth,” a vague and sweeping charge in Iran that is attached to crimes against national security, activity that disrupts the public order or economic structure of Iran, spreads lies, commits arson, and more.
It is a charge punishable by death, known to be laid against activists and journalists.
According to Dr. Hooman Hosseini Nik, a Barrie, Ont. radiologist, there is no evidence against the couple.
Hosseini Nik completed his residency with Dr. Ghare-Hassanlou at the Iran University of Medical Sciences in Tehran, and said his friend and colleague is a high-profile radiologist in the country.
“We are asking for a fair trial by an independent and impartial court, something that seems impossible with the current justice system in Iran,” Hosseini Nik told Global News.
“We just want to raise awareness and we need world community support to put pressure on Iran — the Islamic Republic, I should say, not Iran — to prevent these brutalities, oppressions and injustice.”
The Ghare-Hassanlous, a married couple, were arrested last month after attending a ceremony marking the 40-day anniversary of the death of protester Hadis Najafi in Karaj, west of Tehran.
Najafi, who was reportedly shot dead by security forces, became a symbol of the freedom movement after video surfaced of her tying her hair during an anti-regime protest on Sept. 21. It was days after Amini’s death in the custody of Iran’s morality police for allegedly wearing her hijab too loosely.
Since then, the activist HRANA news agency has said some 470 protesters have been killed, including 64 minors. At least 18,210 demonstrators have been arrested and 61 members of Iran’s security forces have been killed.
As of last week, the United Nations had reported more than 300 deaths and 14,000 arrests.
Kamran Malekpour, an investigative reporter from Iran, said he has been in touch with the Ghare-Hassanlous’ family in Iran and has followed the case closely from his own home in Metro Vancouver.
Of note is the short timeframe between the couple’s arrest and a trial that could result in their state-sanctioned death, he added. They were also denied their choice of lawyer and given a public defender assigned by the government.
“While he was in the hospital, they take (Dr. Ghare-Hassanlou) to the courtroom to confess what they want, even though he didn’t do the confession,” said Malekpour.
“The whole trial just for Dr. Ghare-Hassanlou and his wife took few moments. It was public, but just a few media who are related to the government were present at the court.”
He said the couple is being tried in a group of 15 people, some of whom may receive life sentences instead of execution. While they await news of their fate, Dr. Ghare-Hassanlou suffers from the injuries obtained during or after his arrest, including four broken ribs and internal bleeding, Malekpour added.
Both he and Hosseini Nik lauded the pair’s charitable work. Together, they have built three schools in underserved communities in southern Iran.
“He was a very ethical and professional physician, and on top of that, he was a modest person,” said Hosseini Nik, adding that he thinks about the Ghare-Hassanlous night and day.
“Residency is one of those times that you make very, very deep friendships with people. I am in Canada now for about 10 years, but that is the kind of friendship that stays forever.”
Malekpour is calling on the Canadian Medical Association and Canadian public to “be the voice” of an innocent and generous doctor and his wife, whom the Islamic Republic of Iran wants to “silence.”
Last month, the UN Human Rights Council voted to establish a probe into the state’s crackdown on freedom protesters. Tehran has rejected the investigation and said it will not cooperate.
Like the Ghare-Hassanlous, famous Iranian rapper Toomaj Salehi has also been charged with corruption on earth, and is among the 28 people who may be executed.
Iran has blamed foreign foes and their agents for the unrest. Its judiciary chief last month ordered judges to issue tough sentences for the “main elements of riots.”
– with files from Reuters
Editor’s Note: This is a corrected story. An earlier version incorrectly stated that Dr. Hosseini Nik had been in Canada for two years, instead of 10 years.