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Jillian Kestler-D'Amours

Canadian professor released from Iranian jail

Hoodfar (left) was greeted in Oman by her niece and an official delegation [Twitter]

Date of publication: 26 September, 2016

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Women's rights researcher Homa Hoodfar had been held in the notorious Evin prison for 'dabbling in feminism and security matters'.

Iranian-Canadian academic Homa Hoodfar has been released from jail in Iran, where she had been held since early June, the Canadian prime minister confirmed.

"Canadians are relieved that Dr Hoodfar has been released from jail and will soon be reunited with her family, friends and colleagues," Justin Trudeau said in a statement on Monday.

Iran's state-run media agency, IRNA, first reported that Hoodfar was released from prison on humanitarian grounds.

Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Bahram Qassemi said on Monday that Hoodfar was released "for humanitarian reasons including illness", according to a Press TV report. Hoodfar had already left Iran for Canada with a stop in Oman, Qassemi said.

Repeated calls to Hoodfar's relatives in Canada and London, UK, were not immediately returned on Monday. Meanwhile, a friend and colleague in Chicago would not comment on the news of her release.

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The Iranian authorities detained and interrogated Hoodfar, a 65-year-old anthropologist whose research focuses on women's rights, in March, and prevented her from leaving Iran.

Hoodfar was then arrested on June 6 and transferred to Tehran's notorious Evin prison, where she was held in solitary confinement with little to no access to her family or her lawyer, her family said.

She suffers from a neurological condition and chronic headaches and she was hospitalised in late August, her family said.

Hoodfar, who holds Iranian, Canadian and Irish citizenship, was accused of collaborating with a "hostile government" against national security and of propaganda against the state.

Iran's public prosecutor also publicly stated that Hoodfar was "dabbling in feminism and security matters", allegations that her family said at the time were unfounded and confusing.

In his statement, Trudeau thanked Oman, Italy and Switzerland for being "instrumental" in securing Hoodfar’s release.

Canada suspended all diplomatic relations with Iran in 2012. Though Ottawa has signalled its intention to re-establish ties with Tehran, the lack of formal diplomatic relations was seen as an impediment to securing Hoodfar;s prompt release.

"I would also like to recognise the cooperation of those Iranian authorities who facilitated her release and repatriation. They understand that cases like these impede more productive relations," Trudeau said.

"We ask all to respect the family’s wish for privacy at this time."

Hoodfar's family and friends launched a global campaign for her release that included letter-writing campaigns, protests, and other actions.

Last week, Hoodfar's friends and colleagues at Concordia University in Montreal, where she previously taught, held a rally calling for her safe and immediate return to Canada.

Jillian Kestler D'Amours is a journalist based in Canada. Follow her on Twitter: @jkdamours

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