Law professor Payam Akhavan questions Harper government's decision to close Tehran embassy


An Iranian-Canadian international legal expert says the Canadian government could end up hurting Iranian expatriates by cutting off contact with the regime in Tehran.

McGill law professor Payam Akhavan told the Georgia Straight by phone that the Iranian embassy in Ottawa has been "using cultural activities as a front for infiltration of the Iranian diaspora". According to him, this has included harassment and espionage against opponents of the regime and human-rights activists.

"So I think that at the very least, there should have been a downgrading of diplomatic relations," he said. "I'm concerned that the closure of the embassy, both in Tehran and in Ottawa, and the termination of diplomatic relations may be going a bit too far because it will affect a lot of ordinary Iranian Canadians in adverse ways. We still have two Canadian Iranians on death row in Iran."

Akhavan added that there is a "very significant population" of Iranian Canadians who travel between the countries.

"And we have a context where there's talk of military conflict and increased tensions—at which time diplomatic relations are very important," he emphasized.

As one example of how Iran has acted against Canada's interest, he cited the creation of a school in Montreal, allegedly for the children of members of Iran's much-despised Revolutionary Guards.

Earlier this summer, the Iranian-born wife of Defence Minister Peter MacKay, Nazanin Afshin-Jam, called for the closure of the Iranian embassy in Ottawa.

In an interview with the National Post, Afshin-Jam, an outspoken human-rights activist who was raised on the North Shore, claimed that Iranian embassy officials recorded her appearance at a civil-liberties conference in Toronto. She also said that her relatives had received death threats.

Akhavan, who is also a harsh critic of the Iranian government, said that it's important to keep the lines of communications open.

He also questioned why Canada would close the embassy before adopting targeted sanctions similar to those applied by the United States and the European Union.

"If the point is to put pressure on the regime rather than to take measures to affect ordinary Iranians, Canada should adopt targeted sanctions against Iranian officials responsible for human-rights abuses—just like the United States, just like the European Union—which have imposed travel bans and asset freezes on a hundred Iranian officials implicated in human-rights abuses," he stated.

Akahavan claimed that Vancouver and Toronto are "major money-laundering centres" for Iranian officials.

"So a student at my university has problems getting his parents to transfer $6,000 via a bank to pay his tuition fees, but it seems regime insiders have no trouble in bringing in $600 million to build apartment complexes and to launder their money," he charged.

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Comments (5) Add New Comment
"Vancouver and Toronto are "major money-laundering centers for Iranian officials".Add to that Chinese, Libyan, Syrian and other despots and their cronies. I think that is why we have such a great economy. A big thank you to our government for making Canada the money laundering capital of thieves.
Rating: 0
Iranians can use bitcoins to transfer money to students here. Buy them through Turkey, then cash them out locally for little fees.

Closing the embassy is a ridiculous mistake. Harper is erasing Canada's 60+ year history of respected honest middle-power peace brokerage for god knows what corrupt reasons. We are officially a joke now. We have zero clout on the world stage since we are no longer diplomatic brokers, and Harper is just selling us out to whoever for the lowest price possible.
Rating: +4
As we all know - cutting diplomatic ties has always been a successful recipe to ease political tension and further understanding between countries and people. Right? (irony off)
I would certainly have a LOT of issues with the leadership of Iran, however, there is hypocrisy at work here: Canada has troops in armed conflicts on other countries that have not attacked anybody here. How many Iranian soldiers are fighting in other parts of the world? Violation of human rights and UN resolutions? Western countries and Israel have their share as well. (google e.g. "Bush Blair war criminal") People in Canada should defend the moral high ground by NOT "spreading goodness and democratic values" at gun point. How about initiating exchange, trade and friendship instead? Lead by example!
Rating: +5
Ron j
Positive you are right.
I don't recall Iraq,Afganistan,Iran,N.Korea,N.Vietnam, ever attacking Canada to try and overtake us.
Rating: +8
Iran has operatives in countries all over the world. They are responsible for blowing up the the Israeli embassy in Argentina in 1992 and for blowing up the Jewish community Center in Buenos Aires in 1994 killing over 80 innocent people. They keep tabs on Canadians of Iranian background who disagree with the present regime. I for one am happy that the embassy of that barbaric country is closed! As if dialogue works with supremacists and extremists. Worked with Hitler, right?
Rating: -2
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