I am saddened to hear more worrying news from Iran.
Iran’s seven imprisoned Baha’i leaders have been transferred to more brutal sections of their prison complex. In the case of the two Baha’i women, the circumstances of the move have raised concerns that it may have been orchestrated as a means of creating an insecure environment that threatens their lives. The Baha’i International Community has learned that one of them – Fariba Kamalabadi – has already been physically threatened by inmates since being sent to the notorious Section 200 of Gohardasht Prison.”Apparently, the atmosphere is highly charged in this section, and there is a great deal of tension and animosity among the inmates,” said Bani Dugal, the principal representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations. Mrs. Kamalabadi was transferred to Section 200 on Saturday 12 February, along with Mahvash Sabet.”It is difficult to be certain about the reason for the move,” said Ms. Dugal. “However we believe that, since their arrival at Gohardasht, the Baha’i women – despite their own extremely challenging situation – have nonetheless been a constant source of comfort and hope to other inmates. The prison authorities apparently became alarmed that the two women began to receive signs of respect from a growing number of prisoners. As a justification for the increased harsh treatment, the authorities accused the two of teaching the Baha’i Faith.”
It is heartening that the international community is vocal in its support of seven innocent Baha’is unjustly imprisoned in Iran.
An increasing number of governments, human rights groups and prominent individuals are raising their voices against the harsh prison sentences handed down earlier this month to Iran’s seven Baha’i leaders. As lawyers for the prisoners prepare to appeal against the 20-year jail terms, the government of New Zealand has voiced its concern that the trial “was conducted in a manner that was neither fair nor transparent.” “New Zealand is dismayed that Iran has failed to uphold its international human rights commitments, and its own due legal processes in this case,” said Foreign Minister Murray McCully. “The sentences appear to be based wholly on the fact that these people are members of a minority religious group,” said Mr. McCully, in a statement issued on 20 August. “New Zealand calls on the Government of Iran to protect the fundamental rights of all its citizens, and to end its ongoing and systematic persecution of the Baha’i,” he said. The governments of Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, United Kingdom and United States of America – as well as the European Union and the President of the European Parliament – have already condemned the sentencing of the seven. In the wake of calls from numerous international organizations for the prisoners to be released, groups focused specifically on human rights abuses in Iran – such as the Human Rights Activists News Agency and United4Iran – as well as Amnesty International, have now launched letter-writing campaigns encouraging supporters to call for justice for the seven. Prominent individuals, including British barrister Cherie Blair, have also been raising their voices in support of the Baha’i leaders. Minority Rights Group International (MRG) – which campaigns on behalf of disadvantaged minorities and indigenous peoples – has expressed it deep concern over the lengthy sentences. “Given that independent observers were not allowed to attend the trial, and the history of persecution that the Baha’i community has faced in Iran, the outcome will do nothing to encourage faith in the Iranian justice system,” said Carl Soderbergh, MRG’s Director of Policy and Communications. “MRG calls on Iran to quash the convictions and release the defendants immediately,” Mr. Soderbergh added.
I am appalled to hear of the twenty year jail sentence unjustly handed out to seven innocent Baha’is in Iran.
The harsh prison sentences handed down to seven Iranian Baha’i leaders who are absolutely innocent of any wrongdoing is a judgment against an entire religious community…Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi, whose Defenders of Human Rights Center represented the Baha’i defendants, said she was “stunned” by the reported 20-year jail terms. “I have read their case file page by page and did not find anything proving the accusations, nor did I find any document that could prove the claims of the prosecutor,” said Mrs. Ebadi in a television interview, broadcast on 8 August by the Persian-language service of the BBC. The flagrantly unjust sentence has provoked vehement protest from governments throughout the world – including Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, the U.K. and the U.S.A. The European Union and the President of the European Parliament have also joined the chorus of condemnation, along with numerous human rights organizations – including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and FIDH – as well as other groups, and countless individuals. “The trumped-up charges, and the total lack of any credible evidence against these seven prisoners, reflects the false accusations and misinformation that Iran’s regime has used to vilify and defame a peaceful, religious community for an entire generation,” said Bani Dugal, the principal representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations. Ms. Dugal noted that the seven have reportedly been transferred to Gohardasht Prison in Karaj, a facility about 20 kilometers west of Tehran. “The reason for the move is not yet known and it is too early to assess the implications for the prisoners,” she said. “It does, however, clearly impose an added burden to their families, who now have to travel outside Tehran to visit their loved ones.”The seven – Fariba Kamalabadi, Jamaloddin Khanjani, Afif Naeimi, Saeid Rezaie, Mahvash Sabet, Behrouz Tavakkoli, and Vahid Tizfahm – were all members of a national-level group that, with the government’s knowledge, helped see to the minimum spiritual needs of Iran’s Baha’i community.
My heart goes out to those seven innocent Baha’is whose show trial began today in Iran.
Initial reports indicate that the trial is marked by numerous violations of legal due process.”We understand that no observers were allowed in the court,” said Diane Ala’i, the Baha’i International Community’s representative to the United Nations in Geneva. “We find this completely outrageous, given that these seven have been held purely because of their religious beliefs, in total contradiction to any human rights standards.”We understand that even the lawyers had to argue their way inside the court – lawyers who in any case had virtually no access to the accused for nearly two years.”At the same time, the prisoners’ interrogators from the Ministry of Intelligence and a film crew were seen going in, raising questions about the nature of the trial,” she said.Ms. Ala’i also noted that an Iranian Web site linked to state-run television posted a story Monday evening announcing that the trial had already begun and listing the same baseless accusations made in the past against the seven.”In any event, all of these accounts point to a trial that is highly irregular, very similar to the show trials that have been held in Iran in recent months,” she said.The seven are Mrs. Fariba Kamalabadi, Mr. Jamaloddin Khanjani, Mr. Afif Naeimi, Mr. Saeid Rezaie, Mrs. Mahvash Sabet, Mr. Behrouz Tavakkoli, and Mr. Vahid Tizfahm.
The 14 th May 2009 was the first anniversary of the detention of the “Friends” (or in Persian “Yaran”) members of an ad hoc group which provided basic informal administration for the Baha’i community in Iran. These seven innocent people are still being held in Tehran’s Evin prison without access to legal representation and in very little contact with their families. I am very concerned that the Bahá’í International Community reports that the families of the seven have been told that a new charge has been made against them that of “spreading corruption on earth” (Mofsede-fel-Arz). A charge which in post-revolutionary Iran has carried the death sentence.