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An Iranian-born Canadian resident has returned to British Columbia after being imprisoned and allegedly tortured in his home country for 11 years.

Saeed Malekpour arrived at Vancouver International Airport on Friday evening, having escaped an ongoing prison term in Tehran, said a professor who has been involved in his case for years.

Now 44, Malekpour was a web programmer living with his wife in Victoria, B.C. He was taken into custody after travelling back to Iran in 2008 to visit his ailing father. He was soon arrested by members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard as part of a crackdown on online activities deemed “immoral” or “un-Islamic,” according to Amnesty International.

Malekpour’s escape from Iran was spearheaded by his sister Maryam Malekpour and made possible with the help of Canadian officials, said Payam Akhavan, a McGill professor and a senior fellow at the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights.

“It was heartbreaking to realize that these siblings hadn’t seen each other for a decade, and to imagine all the suffering and loss. But at the same time, it was a demonstration of the astonishing resilience of the human spirit,” Akhavan said, describing a video of the siblings embracing.

Malekpour’s return to Canada was not sanctioned by the Iranian government and his family and lawyers in Iran knew nothing of the plan, Akhavan said.

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