Urgent pleas to release Australian-Iranian citizen held in Tehran prison

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Evin Prison

Evin Prison

The family of an Australian-Iranian grandfather who has been held in a notorious Tehran prison for more than a year has issued an urgent plea to the Morrison government to help secure his release.

Shokrollah Jebeli, 83, has been denied medication and specialised healthcare after suffering a stroke in prison following his detention over what appears to be a small financial dispute.

Mr Jebeli has been held in Evin prison – the same jail Australian academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert was first placed in – since January, 31, 2020.

One of the men Mr Jebeli was in a financial dispute with once claimed he was in the Ministry of Intelligence, raising concerns that he used his connections to put the dual Australian-Iranian citizen in jail.
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In a recorded phone message from inside the prison, Mr Jebeli told the Herald and The Age that he was innocent and “that person” was responsible for putting him in jail.

“He punished me – this person. I leave it to the God, I leave him to you,” he said.

“That person … is a bad person. I am innocent.”

After suffering a stroke inside prison, the father of three was taken to a hospital for treatment. But he was returned to prison the same day against medical advice, according to multiple sources familiar with the situation.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade originally declined to engage with Mr Jebeli’s Sydney-based family on the basis that the Iranian government does not recognise dual citizens, but has in recent weeks begun assisting and has attempted to gain consular visits.

Mr Jebeli’s family said Iranian authorities have not produced any evidence against him and the financial dispute was between $5000 and $20,000.

“Two years ago, he started a business dealing with some people, and one of these people said he was an intelligence officer. They then put all their wrongdoings on him,” the family told the Herald and The Age.

“The whole case is still a mystery to us. We call on the Iranian authorities to release him. At the very least he should be released into the care of a close contact where he can receive the constant medical attention and care he needs, on health grounds.”

In a letter to Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Marise Payne, Amnesty International said it held “grave concerns” about Mr Jebeli’s wellbeing.

“Despite his age and critical health condition, the Iranian authorities have denied him access to the urgent specialised healthcare he needs and have rejected requests for his release on medical grounds,” said the letter sent on June 9.

Amnesty International said it understood the complaint has been brought against Mr Jebeli by an individual from the Ministry of Intelligence. “The involvement of an individual from Iran’s security and intelligence bodies raises concerns about the independence and fairness of the proceedings against him,” the letter said.

Mr Jebeli migrated to Australia on a business visa in 1976 and raised his family in Sydney. His family said he helped the Australian government restore economic ties with Iran in the 1980s through a number of key business deals in the wheat and meat industries.

He later returned to live in Iran in 2007. His family said he would now return to Australia if he was released from prison and allowed to travel.

A spokesman for DFAT said it “has concerns about the health and welfare of an Australian-Iranian dual national detained on criminal charges”.

“Iran does not recognise dual nationality. We continue to seek information and advocate for his welfare, and provide consular assistance to his family,” the DFAT spokesman said. “Owing to our privacy obligations we will not provide further comment.”

Iran’s imprisonment of foreigners has been in the spotlight in recent years, with Dr Moore-Gilbert detained for more than two years after the country accused her of being a spy. The Australian government secured her release in November 2020, as part of a complicated prisoner swap arrangement with Thailand.

The Australian government has stood by its quiet approach to freeing Dr Moore-Gilbert despite the academic saying her 10-year jail sentence would have been less severe had there been immediate publicity about her ordeal.

Source » smh

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