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Pregnant wife of Canadian reporter jailed in Iran hopes for his release

TORONTO - The pregnant wife of imprisoned Canadian-Iranian journalist Maziar Bahari is frustrated that Ottawa seems unable to sway Iran into releasing her husband.

TORONTO - The pregnant wife of imprisoned Canadian-Iranian journalist Maziar Bahari is frustrated that Ottawa seems unable to sway Iran into releasing her husband.

Paola Gourley says she's "so desperately sad" to think that Bahari, who has now been detained in Iran for nearly two months, might not be there for the expected November birth of their child.

"Everything that the Canadians are doing hasn't actually produced any results," Gourley, 40, told The Canadian Press in an interview from London, England, where she lives.

"And that's just so upsetting for me, because time moves on and I know that Maziar is being isolated from the rest of the world and from me and his family."

A filmmaker and Newsweek magazine correspondent, Bahari, 42, had been on assignment in the country covering the presidential elections when he was arrested June 21 in a widespread post-election crackdown.

The day before his arrest, Gourley had spoken with Bahari over the phone about the turmoil enveloping the country.

She was walking in the park the next day when she got a call from a nephew, who relayed the grim news: her husband had been arrested.

"I was incredibly upset, but I had this hope that it was a misunderstanding," Gourley said.

As the days and weeks passed, the only images Gourley saw of Bahari were those broadcast by Iranian state television.

Now, nearly two months after the arrest, Gourley says she's yet to have spoken with the man she married earlier this year. The only calls Bahari has been allowed to make have been to his 83-year-old mother in Iran, who recently was also able to visit him in a Tehran prison, she said.

Gourley was able to catch a glimpse of Bahari during a televised mass trial earlier this month of those arrested during the protests.

"He looked incredibly thin and gaunt and tired, as if he hadn't had any sleep at all," she said.

Iranian news agencies reported that during the trial, Bahari had admitted Western news agencies had tried to influence events in Iran after the election. He also was accused of filming violence in the streets - which Newsweek says he was licensed to do by the government.

Newsweek foreign editor Nisid Hajari says Bahari's admission doesn't square with the dedicated, balanced journalist who's worked for the magazine for the past 10 years.

"He's been held now for almost two months without being allowed to see a lawyer. So really, anything that he says at this point can't be taken at face value," said Hajari.

"They (the Iranian government) have a narrative they are interested in pushing. What he's saying conforms to that narrative."

Gourley, an Italian-English lawyer working in London, said her husband had always had a "great working relationship" with the Iranian government and strove to promote a better understanding of the country.

Bahari was almost an "ambassador" for Iran, she said, and any confession he made was clearly forced out of him.

"People have always been so complimentary about Maziar's work, and the Iran that he portrayed," says Gourley. "The fact now that he's been accused of acting against the national security is so shocking."

At a website run by his supporters, www.freemaziarbahari.org, petitions calling for Bahari's release have been signed by such Canadian luminaries as philosopher John Ralston Saul and authors Yann Martel and Naomi Klein.

In July, Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon called in the senior Iranian diplomat in Canada and demanded that Bahari be granted consular access. Cannon also met with the Iranian charge d'affaires the day after Bahari's arrest.

Gourley said she's spoken with the Canadian government "a number of times" and is assured they're doing all they can to free Bahari, but their efforts are complicated by the fact Iran doesn't recognize Bahari's dual citizenship.

The international community needs to band together to advocate for the release not only of her husband, but of all the detainees being held in Iran, she said.

As for their child, Gourley said she won't learn whether it's a girl or a boy unless Bahari is there to find out with her.

The pair had scheduled a doctor's appointment before Bahari was detained, and Gourley said it wouldn't feel right to go ahead with the scan without him.

"It makes me upset to think about where Maziar is right now, what he's going through (and) that the baby might be born possibly without his father there," she said.

"It makes me so, so desperately sad."

-With files from Andy Blatchford in Montreal.

 
 
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