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Pregnant wife of jailed reporter pleads for his release

Paola Gourley, The wife of an Canadian-Iranian journalist, Maziar Bahari , jailed in Iran is making a direct appeal to the Iranian gov't to release her husband before the birth of their child.

Barbara Gourley

The pregnant wife of jailed Iranian-Canadian journalist Maziar Bahari has issued a last-ditch appeal to the Iranian government to release her husband on humanitarian grounds before the imminent birth of their baby.

Paola Gourley, who lives in London, England, was rushed to hospital by ambulance Monday, two weeks before her due date, after she suffered bleeding due to stress.

Her new request - that the Iranian government release Mr. Bahari on humanitarian, rather than political, grounds - reflects her growing desperation, she said from her hospital bed Tuesday.

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"I am just very worried. ... Now I am just saying he really needs to be home with me and the baby so please let him go," Ms. Gourley said from the University College Hospital.

"The situation has become desperate. I want the Iranians to let Maziar come home out of compassion, because this is a complicated pregnancy. It's worrying for me and it's worrying for the health of the baby," added Ms. Gourley, 40, who has stayed in hospital three times since Mr. Bahari was arrested by Iranian security officials on June 21 while on assignment for Newsweek magazine.

Mr. Bahari is one of dozens being held without official charge in the wake of a crackdown after Iran's disputed presidential elections.

As the only foreign journalist among the detainees, his case has drawn international attention and focused political pressure on the regime to release him.

So far, Tehran has ignored it.

Mr. Bahari, who was fully accredited by the Iranian authorities as a journalist when he was arrested at his mother's house in Tehran, was subsequently seen on Iranian television during a mass trial in August reading from a forced confession.

He has been in custody without access to a lawyer or consular officials for 116 days, with some of his imprisonment spent in solitary confinement.

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Last week, The Wall Street Journal reported that the United States was asking for his immediate release along with U.S.-Iranian scholar Kian Tajbakhsh, as Washington pursued talks over Tehran's nuclear program.

Ms. Gourley's new appeal represents a change in tack from his supporters' previous efforts to secure his release.

Her worsening medical condition, and the possibility that Iran may be willing to release Mr. Bahari on humanitarian grounds, prompted her to make a new request.

Ms. Gourley, a British-Italian lawyer, last heard from her husband on Saturday, when he called from Tehran's Evin prison. It was the third time she had spoken to him since his arrest. Their conversation was brief.

"He didn't say a great deal to be honest. He just asked me how the baby was and tried to get a sense of how I was doing," she said.

In an effort to buoy his spirits, she reassured him.

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Monday, however, doctors told Ms. Gourley she must remain in hospital until her cesarean section, scheduled for Oct. 26.

"They said it was too risky for me to go home, that the situation could become quite serious," she said. "Of course, Maziar doesn't know any of this," she said.

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About the Author

Sonia Verma writes about foreign affairs for The Globe and Mail. Based in Toronto, she has recently covered economic change in Latin America, revolution in Egypt, and elections in Haiti. Before joining The Globe in 2009, she was based in the Middle East, reporting from across the region for The Times of London and New York Newsday. More

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