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Canada Jailed Canadian prof in Iran can 'hardly walk or talk,' say relatives

This undated photo made available by Amanda Ghahremani, shows retired Canadian-Iranian professor Homa Hoodfar. Her family says she can barely walk or talk after her condition worsened since being detained on June 6 in Tehran's Evin Prison. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Amanda Ghahremani *MANDATORY CREDIT*

The Canadian Press

After three months in solitary detention, the Canadian-Iranian university professor Homa Hoodfar's health has declined to the point that she can barely walk or talk, her relatives say.

In a statement released Tuesday, the family of Prof. Hoodfar said the 65-year-old Concordia University anthropologist had to be hospitalized as her condition worsened since being held after June 6 at Tehran's Evin Prison.

Prof. Hoodfar's niece, Amanda Ghahremani, said the family had agreed in recent weeks to keep a low profile at the request of the Iran judicial authorities, who wanted "to allow the legal process to take its course."

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However, she said in the family statement, "Given the alarming news of Homa's hospitalization and declining health, we are left with no choice but to publicize these travesties of justice widely, as it has become clear that the authorities are not prioritizing her health and do not intend to respect Homa's due process rights under Iranian law."

The family also raised concerns about the nebulous charges Prof. Hoodfar faces in Iran – the Tehran public prosecutor accused her of "dabbling in feminism and security matters" – and the way her lawyer was blocked from accessing her file or applying for bail. Media in Iran reported said she was charged with fomenting a feminist "soft revolution" against the Islamic Republic.

Related: Journalist who was jailed in Iran says pressure needed to free Homa Hoodfar

Prof. Hoodfar suffered a mild stroke last year and has myasthenia gravis (MG), a rare neuromuscular disorder which weakens her voluntary muscles.

"Professor Hoodfar was hospitalized due to her rapidly declining health," Tuesday's communiqué said.

"She was very disoriented, severely weakened, and could hardly walk or talk."

Prof. Hoodfar's case is a priority for the department and for Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion, said a spokesman for Global Affairs Canada, John Babcock.

However, he noted that Canada does not have diplomatic representation in Iran.

"We are working with countries of influence and pursuing the best course of action to press the case and secure her safe return to her family, friends and colleagues. The challenges posed by the absence of a diplomatic presence cannot be underestimated," Mr. Babcock said in an e-mailed statement.

An anthropologist who taught at Concordia University in Montreal, Prof. Hoodfar has Canadian, Irish and Iranian citizenship.

Her family says she travelled to Iran on Feb. 11 to visit relatives, but also to conduct research on the history of women's participation in Iran's elections.

Amnesty International said Prof. Homo is a a prisoner of conscience and called on the Iranian government to release her promptly.

"This news today is certainly an indication that Canadian efforts on her behalf need to intensify," said Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty's Canadian chapter.

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Evin Prison, where Prof. Hoodfar is held, is where Canadian-Iranian Zahra Kazemi died in 2003 death while in custody.

Canada closed its Tehran embassy in 2012.

The concerns about Prof. Hoodfar came amid reports of the arrest of another Canadian-Iranian, a man who was linked to Iran's team that negotiated on lifting economic sanctions.

The official IRNA news agency reported Sunday that the man was briefly detained on suspicion he was an "infiltrating element" but has since been released on bail.

Iranian media identified the man as dual Iranian-Canadian national Abdolrasoul Dorri Esfahani, a member of the Ontario Institute of Chartered Accountants in Canada.

Mr. Esfahani reportedly worked as a member of a parallel team working on lifting economic sanctions under one of the main negotiators for last year's landmark nuclear deal between Iran and world powers. He was also an adviser to the head of Iran's Central Bank.

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With files from Associated Press and Laura Stone

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