Amnesty says release prof

Amnesty International is calling on Iran to release a Montreal-based university professor who has been in prison since Monday.

Alex Neve, secretary general of Amnesty International Canada, described Homa Hoodfar as a prisoner of conscience.

"The arrest of respected and accomplished scholar, Dr. Homa Hoodfar, is the latest attempt by the Iranian authorities at targeting individuals, including academics, for the peaceful exercise of their rights to freedom of expression and association," Neve said in a statement Thursday.

"It is deeply troubling that someone whose research focuses on addressing women's inequality can find herself arbitrarily arrested and held, possibly in solitary confinement, without access to a lawyer and her family."

Hoodfar, a professor of anthropology at Concordia University, was arrested Monday after being interrogated by authorities, according to her niece, Amanda Ghahremani.

Ghahremani told The Canadian Press on Wednesday the 65-year-old is in the notorious Evin prison after conducting academic research on women in the country.

She said her aunt had not been allowed to contact her lawyer or family and that the nature of the charges against her was unclear.

Amnesty also called on Ottawa to take all possible diplomatic measures to ensure her immediate release and safe return to Canada.

Omar Alghabra, the parliamentary secretary for Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion, said the government is taking the case "very seriously."

"We're very concerned about the well-being of Dr. Hoodfar and we want to do everything we can to get her out of there as soon as possible," he said Thursday.

Because the Canadian government does not have a diplomatic presence in Iran, officials are reaching out to "like-minded allies" to ask them for help in securing Hoodfar's release, he noted.

He said he and Dion had both met with Hoodfar's family and would do whatever they could to have her freed.

The new Liberal government has indicated it will re-establish relations with Iran and reopen the embassy the previous Conservative government closed in Tehran in 2012.


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