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Iran releases Canadian academic held since June

Iran on Monday released a Canadian-Iranian academic who was detained in Tehran in June, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said, a week after the two countries began talks on a potential restoration of diplomatic ties broken off four years ago.

Homa Hoodfar, 65, is a teacher at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, and an expert on gender and Islam.

“Homa Hoodfar, the retired professor of Canadian universities, who had been detained in Iran based on some accusations, was released this afternoon for humanitarian reasons including illness,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi was quoted as saying.

He said Hoodfar had left Iran and was travelling to Canada via the Gulf state of Oman.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that while his country has sought Hoodfar’s release “at the highest levels,” it worked with Oman, Italy and Switzerland in the matter as it has no diplomatic representation in Iran.

“I would also like to recognise the cooperation of those Iranian authorities who facilitated her release and repatriation,” he said in a statement. “They understand that cases like these impede more productive relations.”

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and his Canadian counterpart Stéphane Dion met last week in New York for the first time since Tehran and Ottawa severed relations in 2012.

Canada closed its embassy in Iran and expelled all Iranian diplomats in Canada after denouncing Tehran as the biggest threat to global security, mainly over its nuclear programme and military assistance to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

After reaching a landmark nuclear deal with world powers in July last year, Iran is seeking to end its long isolation with the West.

However, Tehran’s potential opening up to the West after last year’s nuclear deal has alarmed Iranian hardliners.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have arrested at least seven dual-nationality citizens, or expatriates visiting Iran in the last year, the highest number of Iranians with dual nationality acknowledged to have been detained in recent years. (Reuters)

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