VANCOUVER, The Star — For two months, a B.C. restaurateur kept a secret that could have risked the life of Canadian resident Saeed Malekpour, who had been jailed in Iran for 11 years.
Fred Soofi, 69, owner of the Pasta Polo Italian restaurant in Coquitlam, B.C., knew weeks ago about the plan to whisk Malekpour out of the country on a three-day furlough from the notorious Evin Prison.
Soofi was one of several Canadians who, along with friends and family, raised $100,000 in bail money that was supposed to ensure Malekpour would return to the Tehran prison after he was granted a temporary release.
Soofi said the escape was supposed to take place sooner, but Malekpour’s prison pass was delayed.
Amnesty International Canada says Malekpour was arrested and jailed in 2008 on charges he misused an open-source web program he created to upload photos to the internet. He was sentenced to death in 2010, but that was commuted to life in prison in 2012.
On Friday, his sister Maryam Malekpour was there to greet Saeed when he arrived at the Vancouver airport. Soofi said a clandestine plot allowed Saeed to escape Iran to another, unnamed country, where the Canadian government reinstated his permanent residency so he could travel home.
“Iran has some type of influence in the neighbouring country and we were worried that he might be arrested,” said Soofi, who immigrated to Canada from Iran in 1972.
“But he was in a safe house. We thought it was going to take two to three weeks for him to get his status back as a permanent resident to come to Canada. But thankfully, through the Canadian government … it happened in two or three days,” Soofi added.