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Vida Mehrannia, the wife of the Iranian-Swedish academic Dr. Ahmadreza Djalali, who was sentenced to death in Iran in February, is visiting Belgium today. She is here to urgently demand that EU policymakers increase efforts to secure the release of her husband and other prisoners who hold dual European-Iranian nationality. Vida Mehrannia is being accompanied by her two children. She started her visit to Brussels at the Flemish Parliament, where she met with the president of the Flemish Parliament, Jan Peumans, Minister-President Geert Bourgeois, VUB rector Caroline Pauwels and her husband’s colleague and friend, VUB professor Dr. Gerlant Van Berlaer, who, together with the community at the VUB and the UZ Brussel, has campaigned unfailingly for the past two years for the release of Dr. Ahmadreza Djalali.
Dr. Djalali was arrested whilst on a business trip to Iran in April 2016. Detained by Ministry of Intelligence officials at Tehran’s Evin prison for seven months - three of them in solitary confinement - Dr Djalali was denied access to a lawyer and was repeatedly subjected to torture, eliciting a confession of acting as a spy. He was convicted for “spreading corruption on earth”. Dr Ahmadreza’s treatment, trial and death sentence has caused an international outcry, highlighting Iran’s systemic human rights abuses and sham judicial system.
Vida Mehrannia: “My husband’s detainment has had a severe impact upon his physical and mental wellbeing. He is under immense strain. My children and I wish to be reunited as a family with a beautiful husband and a loving father”.
During their meeting, Jan Peumans and Geert Bourgeois reconfirmed the commitment of the Flemish Parliament and the Flemish government:
“As president of the Flemish Parliament, I am urgently calling upon the authorities of the Islamic Republic of Iran to respond positively to the resolution that was unanimously taken by the Flemish Parliament on 8 November 2017. The Flemish Parliament is demanding above all a stay of execution for Dr. Ahmadreza Djalali. The death penalty is a violation of the right to life, as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights”, according to Jan Peumans, Speaker of the Flemish Parliament.
“I am very worried about the predicament of professor Djalali, who has been detained under the unbearable threat of death penalty for more than two years now. The psychological pressure which his situation entails is not only excruciating for himself but also for his relatives and close friends. Moreover, professor Djalali suffers from poor health and is denied access to medical care outside of the prison. In my contacts with the Iranian ambassador and authorities I keep stressing the professor’s humanitarian situation and his need for medical help, like I did as recently as last week in my conversation with vice-president Sattari. I have also addressed a plea for grace to the Ayatollah on multiple occasions and have always made it clear that Flanders can in no way approve of the death penalty sentence”, said Geert Bourgeois, minister-president of the Flemish Government.
The International Observatory for Human Rights (IOHR) has organised the visit by Vida Mehrannia to Brussels in close collaboration with the Vrije Universiteit Brussel and the UZ Brussel, where Dr. Djalali is a guest lecturer. The VUB and IOHR are continuing to demand that Dr. Djalali be released and reunited with his family. In addition, the IOHR is also campaigning for the release of other prisoners with dual citizenship who are currently being detained in Iran.
Valerie Peay, Director of the IOHR: “Dr Djalali is a victim of systematic violations of human rights and a sham show trial. There has been a complete absence of due process. Our message today is that the EU can and should be doing more to release Dr Djalali and other victims of Iran’s cynical acts of statecraft. Sentencing to death and executing dual nationals is a reckless home goal”.
“The students and staff of the VUB and the UZ Brussel, all Flemish rectors, Belgian bishops, politicians in Flanders and Europe, human rights organisations and hundreds of thousands of supporters stand behind Dr. Djalali and his family. Through diplomacy, protests, vigils, petitions and social media campaigns, we are fighting for the rights of Dr. Djalali, for better medical care, a fair trial and for his release. We have been doing this for two years, without results. Nothing has changed. In the meantime, Ahmadreza’s health continues to decline. It is time for him to come home, so that his family can find peace. I am calling for all those who support Dr. Djalali to continue to do so. I am explicitly asking the European leaders to keep the case of Dr. Djalali on the agenda in their diplomatic relations. We cannot allow a scientist, a doctor, but above all, a citizen of the European Union to waste away in an Iranian jail cell,” said VUB rector Caroline Pauwels.
“As emergency doctors and scientists, we do whatever it takes to save lives. Which is what we are doing today, as colleagues and friends of Ahmadreza, and what we must continue to do: to use all possible means to help Dr. Djalali fight for his release. Colleagues and students at the VUB and the UZ Brussel wrote thousands of cards expressing their support to Vida. I’m pleased to be able to present them today as a symbol of our commitment”, said Dr. Gerlant van Berlaer, colleague and friend of dr. Djalali.
In addition to her reception at the Flemish Parliament, Vida Mehrannia also met with leading members of the European Parliament, including ALDE group chairman Guy Verhofstadt and the head of the EU External Action Service Iran Taskforce, Denis Chaibi.
Later, Vida Mehrannia will travel to Strasbourg for meetings with policymakers at the European Council. A meeting is scheduled with the Secretary-General of the European Council, Thorbjørn Jagland.