Page last updated at 14:31 GMT, Saturday, 25 July 2009 15:31 UK

Protesters call for Iran rights

protest scene
The protesters said they wanted top raise awareness of the situation in Iran

By Arthur Strain
BBC News

It is nearly 3,000 miles to Iran from Belfast, but the plight of protesters in the Islamic republic drew about 40 people to the City Hall on Saturday afternoon.

Some of them were from Iran, among them one man who left 33 years ago and another who fled last year.

The current state crackdown in Iran followed protests in the wake of elections.

The 12 June Presidential election saw Mahmoud Ahmadinejad re-elected with 63% of the vote.

His main challenger Mir Hossein Mousavi called for the result to be annulled, alleging poll fraud.

Protests on the streets followed with at least 20 people killed, hundreds arrested and restrictions place on foreign media.

Saturday's demonstration, organised by Amnesty International, was part of a Global Day of Action for Iran.

Patrick Corrigan of Amnesty NI said the human rights of the Iranian people had to be respected and that they were "deeply concerned" about those under arrest, stating some were being held in prisons "notorious for abuse".

He said that the UK government may not be best placed to bring pressure on the Iranian government, because of the UK's history in the region.

"The European Union and the United Nations should take the lead in upholding international human rights standards," he said.

Mostafa Rezvani was among those wearing the green ribbon indicating support for Mr Mousavi.

Mostafa Rezvani and Misiam Ghambarain
Mostafa Rezvani and Misiam Ghambarain said they wanted to see change

He left Mashhad in 1976 as a medical student and after spending 30 years in Manchester moved to Northern Ireland three years ago.

"I am hoping and praying that the people of Iran will have the right to a free press, women's rights and freedom of religion," he said.

He said the Iranian people had suffered much oppression over the last 30 years and that it must end.

Also at the protest was Misiam Ghambarain, who is an asylum seeker living in County Londonderry.

Speaking through Mr Rezvani, he said that he had fled Iran after being arrested and beaten by the secret police.

He said that while in custody they had also emptied his bank account.

He said that his work as a satellite engineer had led him into conflict with the authorities, which have been removing unauthorised satellite dishes.

He said that after he was released he came to stay with relatives in Northern Ireland, but was still afraid to return.

Aged 22, he has had to flee his country leaving behind his livelihood and family.

"His family have told him that they (the police) are still asking about him and not to come home," Mr Rezvani said.

Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire said those arrested after the election were "political prisoners" and must be released and that civil liberties should be restored.

"We are here for human rights and that's everywhere. Iran is part of the international community and we are here to show solidarity with the people there," she said.



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