A word from her children was read. In particular, they wished that it was their father’s last birthday that they would spend away from him. Participants wrote back cards to express their support.
A parterre of 50 candles was lit at the foot of a large inflatable Amnesty International candle and in front of the Paul-Émile Janson amphitheater, located on avenue Franklin Roosevelt. “He is a teacher from the VUB, our sister university,” commented ULB rector Annemie Schaus, present at the vigil. “We have supported from the start the actions, which each time take place here, since the ULB is located opposite the Iranian embassy.” She noticed that a large banner calling for her release remains permanently hung above the entrance to the amphitheater. “We will never stop making ourselves heard and calling for action, until Ahmadreza Djalali is released,” said VUB rector Caroline Pauwels.
A banner also carried a message qualifying the physical and psychological ill-treatment suffered in prison by Ahmadreza Djalali as torture. Amnesty International has noted that his state of health is worrying. “Doctor Djalali and his relatives have been living this nightmare for almost six years,” lamented François Graas, campaign and advocacy coordinator for the NGO. “The petition for his release has collected more than 130,000 signatures in Belgium. For Amnesty, this is a record at the Belgian level.”
The NGO joins the appeal to European politicians of the head of emergencies of UZ Brussel Gerlant Van Berlaer, colleague at the VUB of Ahmadreza Djalali. He asks them to put the issue of his release back on the agenda and to continue to exert pressure until they succeed. “For 50 years, Iran has arrested Iranians who have dual nationality or strong links with Western countries in order to have a bargaining chip,” says Gerlant Van Berlaer. “We have a diplomat detained in Belgium. There are also a lot of Iranian funds which are blocked in Europe or in the United States”.
Professor Ahmadreza Djalali studied medicine in Iran and then completed his training in Sweden. He specialized in disaster medicine through courses organized by an Italian university and the VUB. He subsequently became a visiting professor at the VUB and since 2012 participated in teaching this master’s degree. He was arrested on April 27, 2016 in Iran, where he had been invited to share his expertise in disaster medicine. He was sentenced to death for espionage and has lived with fear of the execution of the sentence ever since.
A sad interpretation of the song “Happy Birthday”, composed by the musicians Gregory Frateur and Chantal Acda, was broadcast at the end of the event