Sisters mourn brother who died after flogging

While they escaped to Canada, he was forced to stay in Iran

 
Salim Jiwa
The Province

Three Richmond sisters who fled to Canada from Iran to escape beatings by its religious police are in mourning today after learning that their brother died after being flogged 80 times.

Mohsen Mofidi, 35, who turned himself in to police so Iranian authorities would release his sisters from prison, died Sunday after the beating.

"He, in essence, turned himself in again to save his sisters," Vancouver lawyer Richard Kurland, who represents the young women, said yesterday. "He sacrificed his life for his sisters. They are in tears, they are completely devastated by this news."

Kurland, who has filed a $4-million lawsuit against Immigration Canada for its slow response in helping the sisters escape Iran, said he was outraged that Ottawa did not act in time to pressure Tehran to free Mofidi.

Amnesty International officials said yesterday that the lashings -- which under Iranian law involve one-metre-long, 1.5-centimetre-thick leather cords -- amounted to torture.

The group protested Mofidi's death to Ayatollah Sayed Ali Khamenei, the spiritual leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and Mohammad Khatami, the country's reformist president.

The international saga of torment in the totalitarian theocracy came to light when the three Nahasti sisters -- Nika, 18, Mahdis, 20, and Mahnam, 22 -- turned up in Vancouver in January after the Canadian government finally issued visas to them to join their mother, who had struggled for five years to get approval for her daughters to join her.

The problems began for Mahdis and Nika when they attended a party thrown by their brother at his Tehran apartment last summer where young men were also present.

Morality police who enforce hard-line Islamic laws known as sharia broke up the party at gunpoint and took the two sisters into custody. They suffered

broken teeth after being beaten with chains while in custody and were sentenced to be lashed for having boyfriends.

Kurland said yesterday the girls were released after their half-sister Nayer Mofidi, a Canadian citizen living in Tehran, posted bail, including two houses, and Mohsen Mofidi surrendered to police. He was accused of corrupting his sisters, owning an illegal satellite dish and possessing medicines containing alcohol.

Shortly after arriving in Vancouver, the sisters, their lawyer and Amnesty International pleaded with Ottawa to pressure Iran not to proceed with the planned beating.

Amnesty International said yesterday that Mofidi suffered from lung and sinus infections while in the Qasr prison in Tehran and had spent a week in the prison's hospital before being beaten. He was released after being flogged on Feb. 18.

Mofidi made his way to his aunt's home and was admitted to hospital Sunday, where he received antibiotics for his infection but died.

sjiwa@png.canwest.com