All members of the National Council of Austria, the lower house of the country's Parliament, announced Tuesday they will sponsor Iranians detained during the recent protests. 

All 183 members of the Council from four major parties said they will sponsor 183 prisoners including those sentenced to death for their participation in the current wave of antigovernment protests in Iran, ignited by the death in custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini. 

With their symbolic move, members from the ÖVP, SPÖ, Greens and NEOS want to draw international attention to the prisoners, as they explained at a press conference in Vienna on Tuesday. The right-wing populist Freedom Party of Austria FPÖ did not take on sponsorships, therefore 31 MPs from the Federal Council – the upper house -- stepped in to come up with 183 members.

After the National Council unanimously condemned the execution of detained protesters, the four parties announced that they “have to give the application more weight" and take further steps, explained the foreign policy spokesman for the ÖVP Reinhold Lopatka. 

Harald Troch from the SPÖ said that the action is primarily meant to stop the wave of executions. He praised the parliament for condemning the Iranian regime for the brutal crackdown on demonstrators but criticized the federal government for its lack of a policy on the activities of the Austrian embassy in Tehran. He also recalled the dual Austrian-Iranian citizen Kamran Ghaderi, who has been imprisoned in Iran for years, and called on the Foreign Ministry to work towards his prompt release.

Members of the Austrian parliament holding photos of Iranian protesters in danger of execution

"International attention means protection for prisoners, that's the most effective means," Green Club chairwoman Sigrid Maurer said in explaining the action. "The barbarism of the Iranian regime" is unacceptable, and the mandataries regularly demand information about the whereabouts of the detainees. Maurer himself has taken on the sponsorship of the journalist Niloofar Hamedi, who was arrested for reporting the death of Mahsa Amini.

Helmut Brandstätter from the NEOS is the godfather of the Iranian rapper Toomaj Salehi, who faces death over trumped-up charges of "war against God" and "corruption on earth” because he reportedly asked people to participate in the protests. Both allegations can result in a death sentence. Brandstätter says, "There is only one chance to save his life, that's international pressure.”

Earlier in the month, several members of the German parliament (Bundestag) announced their political sponsorship of Iranian political prisoners, most of whom are in danger of imminent execution on bogus charges.

Ye-One Rhie, a member of the Bundestag who has undertaken political sponsorship of the imprisoned dissident rapper said in a series of tweets that she has written to the Iranian ambassador, the EU special representative for human rights, the council of Europe commissioner for human rights, and the high commissioner for human rights about Toomaj’s case and expressed her great concerns for his well-being.

The number of German MPs taking political sponsorship of Iranian protesters is growing. Carmen Wegge has declared herself the sponsor of Armita Abbasi, a young woman of 20, who was missing since her arrest on October 10 before being taken to a hospital in Karaj on October 18 by security forces with multiple injuries including internal bleeding and evidence of repeated rape.

Political sponsorship (politische patenshaften in German) is a way for parliamentarians to select a specific political detainee and use their political weight to campaign for the prisoner’s freedom. This is mainly done by addressing the ambassador and the relevant government and international institutions dealing with human rights.


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