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.