Dec. 22, 2021

Free Kamran Ghaderi, Austrian hostage in Iran | Pod Hostage Diplomacy

Free Kamran Ghaderi, Austrian hostage in Iran | Pod Hostage Diplomacy

Kamran Ghaderi is a husband and father from Vienna, Austria. He went to Iran on 2 January 2016 to visit family and was arrested at the airport in Tehran by agents of Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence. He has been held in Iran to this day and in a couple weeks, it’ll be 6 years since he was taken.

The European Parliament has passed a resolution calling for Kamran’s release. Amnesty International has stated that Kamran is being arbitrarily detained and has also called for his immediate release.

On this week’s episode, we speak to Kamran’s wife, Harika Ghaderi. We talk about Kamran’s arrest, his torture, forced “confessions”, unfair trial, the JCPOA Iran nuclear deal talks in Vienna as well as the toll Kamran’s detention has taken on his family. We also discuss what the Austrian government, European Union, journalists and the public can do to help bring Kamran back home to his wife and 3 young children in Vienna.

If you prefer, you can watch the video version of this interview on YouTube

For more information on Kamran Ghaderi, please check out the following:

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Transcript

Free Kamran Ghaderi, Austrian hostage in Iran | Pod Hostage Diplomacy

SPEAKERS

Daren Nair, Harika Ghaderi

 

Daren Nair  00:05

Welcome to Pod Hostage Diplomacy. We work to free hostages and the unjustly detained around the world. Together with their families, we share their stories every week, and let you know how you can help bring them home. I'm Daren Nair, and I've had the honour of campaigning with many of these families for years. These are some of the most courageous and resilient people among us. People who have never given up hope, people who will never stop working to reunite their families. And we will be right there by their side until their loved ones are back home. Thank you for joining us. And now, let's meet this week's guest. Welcome to Pod Hostage Diplomacy. Kamran Ghaderi is a husband and a father from Vienna, Austria. He went to Iran on 2nd January 2016, to visit family and was arrested at the airport in Tehran by agents of Iran's Ministry of Intelligence. He has been held in Iran to this day, and in a couple of weeks, it will be six years since he was taken. Iran has a long history of unjustly detaining foreign and dual nationals on trumped up charges, putting them through unfair trials and sentencing them to years in prison. These innocent individuals are then used as bargaining chips to extract concessions from their home country. This is state sponsored hostage-taking, also known as hostage diplomacy. At this very moment, there are at least 16 publicly known innocent foreign and dual nationals being held hostage in Iran. They are citizens of the United States, Canada, Britain, France, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, and Austria. There are likely to be citizens from other countries as well. In September 2019, the European Parliament passed a resolution demanding the immediate and unconditional release of all EU-Iranian dual nationals, including Kamran Ghaderi, unless they are retried in accordance with international standards. What this means is if the Iranian regime wants to keep holding these innocent individuals, they will need to be given a fair trial. Now, this won't happen because the Iranian regime know if they are given a fair trial, they'll be found not guilty and released. This same European Parliament resolution also encourages strong coordination among EU embassies accredited in Tehran, urges all member states with a diplomatic presence in Tehran to use the mechanisms envisaged in the EU guidelines on human rights defenders, to support and protect these individuals, in particular women's rights defenders and EU dual nationals. Another European Parliament resolution was passed recently, in July 2021, which called on Iran to immediately drop all charges against arbitrarily detained EU nationals, including Kamran Ghaderi. In February 2019, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran produced a report that stated the following: "The Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran reviewed reports of violations of the right to a fair trial and liberty of dual and foreign nationals detained in the Islamic Republic of Iran. On the basis of ongoing reports, information reviewed and interviews conducted, the Special Rapporteur considers that there is a pattern involving the arbitrary deprivation of liberty of dual nationals and foreign nationals in the Islamic Republic of Iran, as identified by the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. The Special Rapporteur concurs with the Working Group's assessment that many of the cases follow a familiar pattern, which includes arrest and detention outside of legal procedures, lengthy pretrial detention, denial of access to legal counsel, prosecution under vaguely-worded criminal offences with inadequate evidence to support the allegations, torture and ill-treatment and denial of medical care. The patterns identified point to an urgent need for the government to address the situation of all dual and foreign nationals detained in the Islamic Republic of Iran." This statement then goes on to name nine individuals, including Kamran Ghaderi. Amnesty International, the Human Rights charity, has called for Kamran Ghaderi's immediate release, stating that he is being arbitrarily detained. Amnesty also stated the following: "Austrian-Iranian businessman, Kamran Ghaderi, now 57-years-old, is serving a 10-year prison sentence after a grossly unfair trial in August 2016 that relied on false confessions, obtained after he was threatened and held in prolonged solitary confinement. He was denied access to a lawyer for the first seven months of his detention and only saw a lawyer two days before his trial. He was also denied access to consular assistance." Now, we are joined today by Kamran's wife, Harika Ghaderi, who is speaking to us from Vienna, Austria. I've been campaigning with Harika for years, so I know her well. Harika, I'm sorry for what you, Kamran and your family are going through. We will be right here by your side until he comes back home. Thank you for joining us. 

 

Harika Ghaderi  05:35

Yeah, thank you very much, Daren. Thank you. 

 

Daren Nair  05:38

Can you walk us through what happened?

 

Harika Ghaderi  05:41

Yes. It was in January 2016. Kamran flew to Tehran as a regular business trip. And after landing in Tehran, he was arrested. Neither his parents in Iran, nor me, we knew of his whereabouts for three months. In these three months, Kamran was kept in solitary confinement, and was tortured, tortured and eventually forced to sign confessions. These confessions were and still are only evidence that his arrest was based on. After an unfair trial, where Kamran's lawyer was not allowed to speak up and Kamran told the judge that the confession, which he signed under torture, is not true, Everything written there is a lie. He was sentenced to 10 year imprisonment for espionage. The verdict has been spoken to Kamran's lawyer, and apparently the verdict has never been written, and it was spoken just by... by the judge. I heard afterwards that, based on Iranian laws, once a person is convicted, they must transfer him to the communal block of the prison. But unfortunately, Kamran was transferred to the Ward 209 of Evin Prison, and he has been held in this ward for 472 days. Eventually, after one and a half year, he was transferred to one of Evin's communal blocks. And when Kamran was held in solitary confinement, his health conditions was getting worse. Beginning from Spring 2017, he was severely disoriented, severely weakened. He could not get up from bed for three months. And he could not walk, not stand or sit. He had all the time was strong pains. And they gave him up to 28 medications a day to relieve his pain. And yeah, after one year of pain, in February 2018, he had two surgeries, in which the doctors removed two intervertebral discs and a 30-centimetre-long prothesis was operated on the spinal column. And that means that he will only be able to bend his body by 15 degrees for the rest of his life. And he also has a tumour on his left leg bone, for which he had three times MRI in Iran. And since he has been arrested, he has also high blood pressure and must take medication two times a day for that. Yeah, it will soon be the sixth anniversary of his arrest, and so far, all of his requests for an earlier and conditional release has been denied. That means his release does not depend on justice. And that is a clear sign that he is a hostage. Yeah, I would like to mention the psychological pressure on our children and on myself, which has been affecting our lives... our lives for the last six years. When Kamran was arrested, our youngest child was only 13 months-old and now he's eight-years-old. Our daughters were nine and 12-years-old, and now they are 15 and 18-years-old. Yeah, every day, I must see the sad looks of our children and that I cannot comfort them is the greatest pain for me. Yeah, and immediately after Kamran's hostage-taking in Iran, while I was busy understanding what had happened and how can I help him, I lost nine kilos within two weeks and lost more weight in the following weeks. And, at the end, I weighed 45 kilos instead of 59 kilos. And liquid diets my friends gave me enabled me to start eating solid foods again after many months. For the first three months, I could only sleep two hours a day. It was... It was really terrible.

 

Daren Nair  10:24

I'm sorry to hear that, Harika. So, I know Kamran is a businessman. Can you tell us more about Kamran's background?

 

Harika Ghaderi  10:31

Yeah, Kamran came to Austria for 38 years as a student and has studied electrical engineering at the Technical University of Vienna and graduated as a PhD. And he's an Austrian businessman and was working as a senior IT consultant with companies in the Middle East countries, among others in Iran for many years, and prior to his arrest, had been regularly travelling to Iran. And he's the owner of an IT consulting company based in Vienna in Austria. And after JCPOA was signed in July 2015, Kamran was a member of Austrian business delegation that flew to Iran in September 2015 with, among others, with former Austrian president. And three months after that business trip, he was arrested.

 

Daren Nair  11:36

Have you received any support from the Austrian government in the last, almost six years now?

 

Harika Ghaderi  11:44

Yes, the Austrian Foreign Ministry initially said that because of his dual... dual citizenship, they cannot do much... do much. And for the last few years, they have been saying that they try to help Kamran at every opportunity, which I believe, but after almost six years when my husband is still in jail, despite his innocence, and my children have been living for six years without their beloved father, I believe that the solution should be found on an international level. And since my husband is, unfortunately, not the only European Union citizen who is also an Iranian citizen and is being held hostage in Iran, I think that the European Union should work on a solution to get them released as soon as possible.

 

Daren Nair  12:36

Okay, so you mentioned that all EU countries should work together to bring Kamran and the other European nationals held in Iran back home. In the monologue, I mentioned that the EU Parliament has passed a resolution calling on Iran to release these innocent individuals. Now, what should the Austrian government themselves be doing better? Is it just working a lot closer with the other EU governments?

 

Harika Ghaderi  13:06

Yes, I think that will be very helpful if Austrian government would be... would work with other European Union countries together to find international solution for that.

 

Daren Nair  13:17

All right. Now, it's not just the governments that can help bring hostages like your husband home. The news media plays a critical role as well. I've interviewed many families where they say, because of media coverage, their loved one has been taken out of solitary confinement, or their loved one, who they couldn't speak to, now gets to call them every week. And that is the power of the news media shining a light on the hostage case. What can journalists and news outlets do to help?

 

Harika Ghaderi  13:54

Yeah, I think they are very, very helpful. So far, I have had a few interviews with newspapers and radios. And many thanks to everyone who reported about Kamran's case. Thank you very much. But it will be also very good if they would keep up with Kamran's case and continue reporting about him. An innocent businessman has been wrongly thrown apart from his family and his life. And injustice like this simply can't be forgotten. Yeah, I think that every single report about Kamran is a contribution to his release.

 

Daren Nair  14:38

No, I agree. Every time they raise his name, it reminds people that he's still being held there. It shows... it shows him, you and your children that no one's forgotten Kamran. What can the public do to help bring your husband home and reunite your family?

 

Harika Ghaderi  15:02

So, we have a Facebook account, the Twitter account for Kamran. We are doing sometimes Twitter Storms. Many people who defend human rights have joined to this Twitter Storms during the last years. And I would like to thank all of these people from all... all over the world. It means really a lot to us, and it gives us... us strength. But we still need your support. And Amnesty Austria has accepted Kamran's case as an Amnesty case. They have also started some actions so far. Some resolutions in the European Parliament have requested Kamran's release, and the United Nations Special Rapporteur has reported about Kamran's health conditions several times. Yeah, please continue to support us... support us until my husband finally experiences justice and is at home with his children. It's very important, I think.

 

Daren Nair  16:12

I absolutely agree. So, just to recap what you said, follow the Free Kamran Ghaderi accounts on social media, take part in Twitter Storms, take part in the Amnesty Austria's action for Kamran. So, I believe that what that means is basically signing a petition that is sent to their members of parliament. Is that right? 

 

Harika Ghaderi  16:34

Yeah.

 

Daren Nair  16:34

Yeah. And basically keep doing that just to remind the politicians that we still care about this, we still want you to bring Kamran home. Now, Harika, we're almost at the end of our interview. Is there anything else you'd like to mention?

 

Harika Ghaderi  16:51

Yes, I want to just say that my husband was doing business in the Middle East countries for decades. At first as an IT consultant at a company and then as an independent businessman. And he has also went to Iran for business and private, because his parents live in Iran, and he has never had any problems. And, as we know, the JCPOA was signed in July 2015 in Vienna. And it was very good opportunity for many European businessmen. Many delegations have flown to Iran. In September 2015, a business delegation from Austria with 200 people, and with former Austrian President flew (to) Iran. And Kamran was one of those businessmen. And three months later, when he entered Iran again, he was arrested immediately after landing at the airport. And now, the JCPOA negotiation... negotiations have been taking place again in Vienna for the past few months. Yeah, I would like to take this opportunity to ask all participating countries to, besides economics, economic interest, also discuss human rights and to agree on a solution. Cases like Kamran's, where innocent people and their families experience injustice for years, must come to an end. I very much hope that everyone will succeed and that our families will be reunited after so many years of suffering. Thank you.

 

Daren Nair  18:39

So, your message to the countries participating in the JCPOA negotiations is to not just discuss the nuclear deal, but also human rights, which includes bringing innocent individuals like Kamran and the other foreign nationals and dual nationals back home. So. Harika, we've been campaigning together for years. And as I said before, we'll be right here campaigning by your side until Kamran comes back home. Thank you for joining us. 

 

Harika Ghaderi  19:06

Thank you very much, Daren. Thank you.

 

Daren Nair  19:09

Thank you for listening to this week's episode of Pod Hostage Diplomacy. We're not just a podcast, we're a community. If you're on Twitter and would like to post a message of solidarity to the families or have any questions for us, please tweet it using the hashtag #PodHostageDiplomacy and we will get back to you. If you like what we're trying to do, please do consider supporting the show financially. You can do this using the support the show link in the description of this podcast episode. We're grateful for any contributions, no matter how small. Thanks again for listening. And we'll be back next week. Take care.