VANCOUVER (CP) - Iran has refused to send to Canada the body of a man who died after being flogged in prison, despite pleas by his family now living here, a lawyer representing the man's three sisters said today.
"The government of Iran will not allow the body to leave the jurisdiction," Robert Kurland said in an interview with The Canadian Press.
"There are many technical reasons that they are raising. I think, practically speaking, what government would allow evidence of a body with scars and lash marks all over it?"
Mohsen Mofidi, 35, died last weekend, a few days after being released from prison, where he received 80 lashes for violating the Islamic republic's strict code of conduct.
Kurland said Mofidi had been weakened by severe lung and sinus infections in prison. Even under Iran's harsh justice system, his punishment should have been postponed, the lawyer said.
"I intend to press for an investigation within the domestic Iranian legal arena," Kurland said.
Mofidi was to be buried in Iran today, Kurland said. The family - his mother and three sisters live in suburban Richmond - planned to hold a private memorial at their home on Saturday.
Kurland is suing the Canadian government on behalf of Mofidi's sisters, who were also jailed in Iran before being allowed to emigrate to Canada.
Their mother won refugee status in 1999 and sponsored her daughters, aged 18 to 22, but Mohsen Mofidi was too old to qualify.
The women claim delays by Immigration Canada in delivering visas to the women after they'd been approved allowed them to be arrested, jailed and beaten with chains.
Mohsen Mofidi turned himself in to police in Tehran so authorities would release his sisters, Kurland said.
The family's problems began last summer when Iran's morality police broke up a party at Mofidi's apartment, attended by two of the sisters and where young men were also present contrary to Islamic law.
The sisters were taken into custody and said they were beaten with chains, breaking their teeth. They were forced to sign confessions that they had boyfriends and were also sentenced to be flogged.
Mofidi was accused of corrupting his sisters, owning an illegal satellite dish and having medicines that contained alcohol.
His plight caught the attention of Amnesty International.
"We had raised concerns in advance of the flogging that took place about the ill treatment that was going to occur," said spokesman John Tackaberry from Toronto.
He said the organization's secretary general spoke with Iran's ambassador to Canada today, asking for clarification of why an apparently ill man was flogged and calling for an open, impartial investigation.
"We have called for a moratorium on all these types of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment such as flogging," Tackaberry added.
No one was available for comment today at Iran's embassy in Ottawa.
Kurland said it appears the judge who approved Mofidi's flogging didn't properly assess whether he could handle it.
"In this case there was clear evidence that Mr. Mofidi physically was not capable of receiving his punishment," he said.
Kurland said he had been attempting to get Mofidi temporary sanctuary in the Netherlands while trying to get him a visa for Canada when the flogging took place.
Ironically, Kurland said Mofidi's jail sentence was cut short by a mass parole of prisoners to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Iran's Islamic revolution.
"On the last day of his sentence he's lashed, so that (the parole) brought forward in time the lashing," he said.
Kurland said he believes Canada, possibly Justice Minister Irwin Cotler, may have tried to intervene behind the scenes with Iranian authorities before the flogging was pushed up.
"If something was done it may have been done behind a diplomatic curtain," said Kurland.
Kurland filed a $4-million suit in Federal Court against the minister of citizenship and immigration last month on behalf of Mofidi's mother and sisters, alleging delays in bringing the sisters to Canada resulted in the arrest and torture of two of them.
In a statement of defence filed this week, the government categorically rejected claims it was responsible for their injuries or trauma
Curtesy of The Star
Got Sisters to Canada, Iranian Dies After Lashes
Colin Freeze - Thursday, February 26, 2004
A man jailed in Iran has died four days after being lashed, a month after helping his three young sisters flee to Canada for fear they would face just such a fate.
Mohsen Mofidi, 35, who had been ill and in custody for several months, died late Tuesday, a lawyer for his family in Canada said yesterday.
Richard Kurland said Mr. Mofidi was tried and sentenced to 80 lashes for allegedly helping his younger sisters find boyfriends, an illegal act under Iran's Islamic regime.
Mr. Mofidi's family told the lawyer he was released after he was lashed and made his way to the house of an aunt in Tehran. From there, he called his sisters, aged 18 to 22, who had fled to Vancouver early this year. He succumbed to his injuries from the lashes, the lawyer said.
"The only bright spot is that the brother did manage to speak by telephone with his sisters in Canada," Mr. Kurland said. "He is overjoyed that the sisters managed to make it safely here."
Canadian officials are aware of the report of Mr. Mofidi's death but have not independently confirmed it, and Iran has not commented on the case.
Mr. Mofidi's sisters -- Nika, Mahdis and Mahnam Nahasati, aged 18, 20 and 22, respectively -- are suing the Canadian government.
Last summer, the two younger sisters were caught in a Tehran apartment by morality squad members who broke up a party at gunpoint. The young women say they were detained for 16 days and beaten with chains, to the point of losing teeth.
In their suit, the sisters allege that bureaucratic intransigence was responsible for their arrests in Iran.
Their mother came to Canada five years ago, and her refugee claim was successful. According to Mr. Kurland, that meant the young daughters, by virtue of their age, automatically should have been granted Canadian citizenship and travel papers. But there was a delay in granting the sisters their visas.
The women were sentenced to 120 lashes but were released on bail before their scheduled punishment last month. Only last-minute manoeuvrings by Mr. Mofidi, Mr. Kurland and Canadian officials spared them the lash. They found a haven in the Canadian embassy, then were flown to Vancouver.
The sisters say they are suing because they should have been allowed to travel to Canada sooner. They had been pushing Canada to intervene on their brother's behalf.
Curtesy of NUFDI
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