It’s been six years since Abdoullah al-Mansouri was arrested in Syria and extradited to Iran. Al-Masouri is an Iranian who fled to Maastricht in 1989 as a result of his work for the independence of the Ahwazi, an ethnic minority in Iran. In Maastricht he was an active member of the Dutch Council for Refugees, Amnesty International and GroenLinks. Since his arrest on 11 May 2006, both the regular and the student group of Amnesty Maastricht have been campaigning to give him due legal process and contact with his family, who still live in Maastricht.
Nicole Freihoff and Leonie Kijewski are two of the students who will attend the wake on Thursday 10 May at the Servaasbrug to remember Al-Mansouri’s imprisonment. Later that day, a debate on Iran and the Arab Spring will take place at the Faculty of Law. Kijewski got involved in this case when she joined the Amnesty student group. “Last year, I met his family. That really touched me – it’s not just a story in the newspaper anymore; now I know the people. Every last Thursday of the month we have a wake to show that we haven’t forgotten him.” Al-Mansouri was convicted based on charges that were never made public. He was first sentenced to death, which has now been reduced to fifteen years in jail. “Every time we get some news or something changes, Amnesty goes to the Iranian embassy for new negotiations”, says Freihoff. “It really helps”, says Kijewski. “When the Iranian ambassador denied that Al-Mansouri hadn’t talked with his family in two years the Amnesty chairman went to the embassy, and a week later he was able to make his first call.”
Although this is a huge improvement – the prison where Al-Mansouri is being held has now also been identified – the road to his release is still long. “Of course we hope that he’ll be free someday, otherwise we wouldn’t protest”, says Freihoff. “On the one hand, small steps are being taken all the time, but on the other hand it’s already been six years.” Kijewski: “The thing is, he’s quite old, 65 or 66. Maybe a new government in Iran will make some changes. They might use this case to polish their reputation abroad.”