Ottawa December 10, 2015 – Former Justice Minister Irwin Cotler joined MPs Judy Sgro (Liberal), Scott Reid (Conservative), Murray Rankin (NDP), and Elizabeth May (Green) to mark the second anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s passing – and International Human Rights Day – by calling for the release of four political prisoners inspired by Mandela’s courage and commitment.

Irwin Cotler, who acted as counsel to Mandela, has taken up the cases of the four political prisoners at the request of their families and representatives. Said Cotler, “Nelson Mandela was a heroic role model, and the impact of his release after years of political imprisonment demonstrates the potential transformative effect of freeing political prisoners. Each of these four prisoners embodies the Mandela ethos, and is a heroic role model in his own right.” Cotler recently founded the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, which has also taken the case and cause of these four prisoners.

Venezuelan political prisoner Leopoldo López is the founder and leader of the opposition party Voluntad Popular (Popular Will), who was recently sentenced to 14 years imprisonment for his role in pro-democracy protests in a trial devoid of any semblance of due process or legality. Last year, the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on International Human Rights unanimously adopted a resolution condemning his imprisonment and calling for his release.

Iranian political prisoner Ayatollah Hossein Kazamani Boroujerdi is a senior cleric and long-time advocate for freedom of religion in Iran. He has been imprisoned since 2006 on a series of trumped-up charges, has been threatened with execution, and is being denied urgent medical care as a form of passive execution.

Mauritanian political prisoner Biram Dah Abeid has been imprisoned for his anti-slavery advocacy in a country which has the largest percentage of enslaved people in the world. At the time of his arrest, he was participating in the Caravan of Liberty, an initiative of IRA-Mauritania (Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement) of which he is President.

Saudi Arabian political prisoner Raïf Badawi has been sentenced to 10 years imprisonment, 1,000 lashes, and an exorbitant punitive fine for doing nothing other than exercising his freedom of expression. Raïf Badawi’s wife and three children have been given refugee status in Canada and are living in Sherbrooke, Québec.