An Austrian politician has accused Iran of unjustly jailing and torturing Austrian citizens, and has called for European leaders to take a tougher stance on the country.
Ewa Ernst-Dziedzic, a member of parliament for Austria’s Green Party (Die Grünen), described Iran’s tactic of taking dual Iranian-European citizens hostage as "provocative." She also accused the Iranian government of not valuing the lives of its own citizens.
Austria’s Green Party considers the protection and guarantee of human rights, social freedoms and the environment as being at the core of its mandate. It advocates for these rights and protections and the elimination of discrimination, both in Austria and abroad.
In an interview with the Austrian news website OTS marking the second anniversary of the arrest of Masoud Mosahab, secretary-general of the Iran-Austria Friendship Association, the party spokeswoman condemned the Islamic Republic's actions and its practice of taking dual nationals hostage.
Mosahab, an Iranian-Austrian businessman, traveled to Iran with an Austrian research delegation in February 2019. He made no secret of his links with the Iran-Austria Friendship Association. Authorities arrested him and accused him of spying for Germany and Israeli intelligence apparatus Mossad.
”We know very well that Mr. Mosahab was tortured," said Ewa Ernst-Dziedzic, "to the extent that he was forced to sign false confessions [against himself] and was thus sentenced to 10 years in prison... Such decisions, which amount to a clear violation of human rights, will have a significant impact on future Austrian-Iranian relations."
The politician has warned the Islamic Republic in the past. In recent years, Austria has had strong political and economic ties with Iran; in fact, Vienna has hosted both public and secret meetings between Iranian and Western political officials on a range of matters. However, with the rise of the Green Party, both in Vienna and in the Austrian parliament, some of the country's policies towards the Islamic Republic have changed.
Following the execution of Ruhollah Zam, the head of exile media outlet Amad News, in December 2020, Austria, along with France, Germany and Italy, stopped its ambassador from attending the Europe-Iran Business Forum, which Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was due to host online in December. In the end, the forum was canceled.
"The mullahs kidnapped Ruhollah Zam, a blogger and journalist who had taken refuge in France, from Iraq, and tried him in the most unconventional court and sentenced him to death,” Ernst-Dziedzic said. “Ruhollah Zam was then executed.
"We know very well that the clerical regime tortures Mr. Mosahab in one of the most infamous prisons in the world in the worst possible conditions," she added. "Mr. Mosahab is struggling with many ailments due to old age. He contracted the coronavirus but it does not matter to them. I am sorry the family of Masoud Mosahab has lived in fear and anxiety for two years."
Kamran Ghaderi is another Iranian-Austrian imprisoned in Iran. The Islamic Republic arrested him in 2015 and later sentenced him to 10 years in prison on charges of "spying for the hostile US government."
Ghaderi is the head of the Austrian company Avanuk, which works in management and consulting and has been trading and cooperating with the Iranian banking industry for more than 17 years. The company has also been involved in upgrading systems for Tejarat Bank.
Kamran Ghaderi also had involvement with his native country during the most difficult years of Iran's isolation. Despite his apparent commitment to boosting its economy and security, the Islamic Republic also imprisoned and attempted to use him as a bargaining chip in dealign with Austria and Europe.
"This is not just an act against Austria or Austrian citizens; the clerical regime is targeting the values of the European community," said the Austrian MP.
Ewa Ernst-Dziedzic described the Islamic Republic's treatment of European citizens as both "provocative" and “dangerous.” "Given the growing pressure the mullahs have placed on European citizens, we must speak in a language that is easy for them to understand. What Austria and Europe want is the release of political prisoners and respect for human rights."
She further called on European countries to recognize and uphold the rule of law in any bilateral or multilateral relations with Iran, and to use it as a guiding principle in all future negotiations with Iran.
Ernst-Dziedzic argued that this rule of law will not be possible without direct talks at the highest levels of the Islamic Republic and that Western countries should increase multilateral pressure on Iran.