Canadian Iranian professor Homa Hoodfar freed from prison

Hoodfar, 65, was barred from leaving Iran in March after travelling to the country to visit family

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MONTREAL — A retired Canadian-Iranian professor has been released from a Tehran prison and will soon be reunited with her family, friends and colleagues, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday.

Homa Hoodfar, 65, was first arrested in March, shortly before she was to return to Canada, but was released on bail. She was rearrested June 6 and had been held at Tehran’s notorious Evin prison until her release.

Hoodfar until recently taught anthropology and sociology at Montreal’s Concordia University.

Trudeau said in a statement that the Canadian government has been “actively” working for her release.

“In the absence of diplomatic representation of its own in Iran, Canada worked closely with others who were instrumental in helping secure Dr. Hoodfar’s release — most notably Oman, Italy and Switzerland,” Trudeau said, thanking them for their support.

The prime minister also recognized “the co-operation of those Iranian authorities” who facilitated Hoodfar’s release and repatriation.

“They understand that cases like these impede more productive relations,” he said.

Hoodfar’s supporters had pressed diplomats to discuss her case during the recent United Nations General Assembly in New York. Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion met with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif on the sidelines of the meeting last Wednesday.

In July, Iran announced indictments for Hoodfar — who was born in Iran but has been living in Montreal for 30 years — and three others, without providing any details about the accusations. Her family had said in late June that the Iranian probe into Hoodfar centred on her dabbling in feminism and security matters.

Amnesty International Canada had also called for her release, saying Hoodfar was “a prisoner of conscience.”

In recent weeks, Hoodfar’s supporters described her health as deteriorating while she was in solitary confinement, saying she was “barely able to walk or talk.”

Iran’s state-run news agency IRNA reported that Hoodfar had been freed from prison on humanitarian grounds and flown out of the country.

Hoodfar’s friends and family declined to comment or were not immediately available when reached about her release on Monday.

Iran does not recognize dual nationalities, meaning those detained cannot receive consular assistance.

In previous cases, dual nationals have faced secret charges in closed-door hearings in Iran’s Revolutionary Court, which handles cases involving alleged attempts to overthrow the government.

Several dual nationals have been arrested in the year since world powers reached a nuclear deal with Iran to limit its uranium enrichment in exchange for the lifting of crippling economic sanctions. Analysts have suggested Iranian hard-liners hope to use them as bargaining chips with the West.

Canada has not had an embassy in Iran since 2012, when its then-Conservative-led government cut diplomatic ties over Tehran’s contested nuclear program and other issues.

In the time since, world powers have reached a deal with Iran for it to limit its uranium enrichment in exchange for the lifting of crippling economic sanctions.

— With files from The Associated Press