Sunday, November 15, 2009

Convicted Tehran Jewish teen 'denied a fair trial'

Yaghoghil Shaolian, the Jewish teenager arrested for taking part in the Tehran electoral protests in June, has been sentenced to two and a half years in prison, accused of espionage. An international effort to protect the Jewish teenager's rights in jail has intensified in recent days.

Arieh Perecowicz, a human rights campaigner, who has been following Shaolian's case on his blog, has written to the Canadian government:

"I am writing you – particularly in the wake of Canada’s sponsorship, of a resolution in the United Nations, on Iran’s deplorable human rights record – to request that your government uses its good offices to intervene on behalf and monitor the conditions and trial of Mr. Yaghoghil Shaolian, an Iranian national, who was picked up and falsely imprisoned on trumped up charges, and risks arbitrary severe punishment, or even death. His predicament, as a member of Iran’s small and vulnerable Jewish community, is most precarious, and urgently requires Canada’s and the international community’s protest and intervention.

"Will Canada – together with our allies and international partners – intervene to monitor his conditions of detention, his trial, provide legal assistance, and otherwise protect the life of this innocent Iranian citizen?"

The human rights lawyer and Canadian MP Irwin Cotler assured
Perecowicz on 29 October:

"I have been working in concert with others to free the detainees. Indeed I spoke yet again about this in Parliament today and will be doing so again tomorrow. We will keep doing what we can."

Shaolian has close relatives living in California and campaigners hope that more pressure will be brought to bear via the US government.

In response to a parliamentary question in the House of Commons at Westminster on 22 October, the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonweath Affairs, Ivan Lewis, said: "The situation of the Jewish community in Iran has long been of concern to us. Its members have suffered discrimination under the Islamic Republic: for example, Iranian Jews are barred from running for President, and from a number of professions, such as the armed forces. President Ahmadinejad’s repeated denials of the Holocaust— most recently at the UN General Assembly in September—only serve to increase our concern.

"We have been disturbed by the Iranian authorities’ response to the protests that followed the disputed June 2009 presidential election, and in particular by the death and imprisonment sentences handed down in recent days. One of those convicted was the Jewish teenager, Yaghoghil Shaolian. He has been sentenced to two and a half years in prison. We are seeking more information about his case, as well as those of the other defendants, and will raise our concerns with the Iranian authorities, since those convicted and sentenced appear to have been denied a fair trial."

Yaghoghil Shaolian, 19,was quoted by the semiofficial Fars news agency as saying that he was not an activist but that he got caught up in the moment and threw stones at a Tehran bank during a protest in June.

"Iran’s only Jewish parliamentarian, Siamak Mereh Sedq, confirmed the detention of Shaolian and his Jewish identity to
The Associated Press. He said the detention was not connected to his religion and that Shaolian is innocent.

"The report said Shaolian's lawyer had asked the court for a reasonable and fair prosecution due to Shaolian’s youth."Iran’s sole Jewish parliamentarian, Siamak Mereh Sedq, told The Associated Press: “I have been pursuing his case since we learned about his detention,” said Mereh Sedq. He said Shaolian’s detention was not related to his religion.

“He is innocent, we hope to see his release soon based on Islamic mercy,” he said.

Crossposted on Harry's Place and Z-Blog

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