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Iran releases 80 inmates, including Iranian-Canadian on death row

Sept. 24, 2013 at 7:51 PM   |   Comments

TEHRAN, Sept. 24 (UPI) -- Iran freed 80 prisoners this week, with a Toronto woman saying one of them was her husband who spent four of his five-plus years in custody on death row.

Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, issued the pardons Monday, Press TV reported. Gholam Hossein Mohseni Eje'i, a spokesman for the prosecutor general and judiciary, said the prisoners were freed following the clemency and added more releases were expected in the near future, Press TV reported.

At least some of those freed had been arrested over riots that followed Iran's presidential election in 2009, the Iranian network said.

The release of the 80 inmates, described by EUobserver as political dissidents, came the day before Iranian President Hassan Rouhani addressed the U.N. General Assembly in New York.

EUobserver said 11 other dissidents were released last week, including Nasrin Sotoudeh, who was awarded the European Union's 2012 Sakharov Prize for human rights.

Antonella Mega told The (Toronto) Globe and Mail her husband, Hamid Ghassemi-Shall, is out of Tehran's Evin prison and staying with his sister in Tehran. She said she hoped he would be able to return to Toronto soon.

Mega said she first learned of the development from her sister-in-law, who only spoke Farsi, the newspaper reported Tuesday. Despite the language barrier, Mega said she came to understand there was good news about her husband and later confirmed he was free.

"I knew it was something good from the way she was speaking," she said. "I just didn't know exactly what."

Still, Mega said it's unclear whether the Iranian government has placed any restrictions on her husband.

"My position always has been that I'll feel better when he's here with me," said Mega, who has since talked with him several times. "So my goal is really for him to be here, but of course this is wonderful.

"We were both overwhelmed. It'll be a long road, but I hope he'll be OK. He's just kind of starting to breathe."

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