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Baird issues plea for Canadian on death row in Iran

Canada's Foreign Minister John Baird speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa April 3, 2012.

CHRIS WATTIE/REUTERS

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird is calling on the Iranian government to save the life of an Iranian-Canadian who's on death row in Tehran.

In a statement issued Sunday, Mr. Baird said Canada is gravely concerned by indications that Hamid Ghassemi-Shall's execution may be carried out imminently.

"Canada urgently appeals to the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to grant clemency to Mr. Ghassemi-Shall on compassionate and humanitarian grounds," Mr. Baird said.

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Mr. Ghassemi-Shall, 42, was arrested in 2008 while visiting his family, and was later charged with espionage.

He was sentenced to death in 2009 and an Iranian court has rejected an appeal.

"We urge Iran to reverse its current course and to adhere to its international human rights obligations," Mr. Baird said.

Mr. Ghassemi-Shall emigrated to Canada after Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution.

He is awaiting execution in Tehran's notorious Evin prison, where another Canadian — photo journalist Zahra Kazemi of Montreal — was beaten, raped and killed in 2003.

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