Monday * September 15th 2014

Governments speak out for seven Baha’i leaders each sentenced to 20 years in prison for their beliefs

Several statements of international support for seven Iranian Baha’is each recently sentenced to 20 years in prison for their religious beliefs have been issued by the governments of Canada, France, Australia, the United Kingdom, The Netherlands, Germany, the European Parliament and the European Union.

In Canada, Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon said in a statement issued on August 10, “Canada is deeply disturbed by reports that these individuals have now been sentenced to 20-year prison terms on charges of espionage, acting against national security and being enemies of God, and that these sentences were passed without either written judgements or due process. Canada once again urges Iran to grant bail to the seven Bahá’í leaders and to ensure that they are accorded fair treatment, in accordance with international standards. Canada further urges Iran to protect the rights to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. The persecution of the Bahá’í community in Iran is intolerable and deeply troubling.”

In France, the government was “distressed to learn of yesterday’s sentencing of seven Baha’i leaders to 20 years in prison without parole by a court in Tehran.” Its statement of August 10 further called on the Iranian government to ” release these seven Baha’i leaders immediately” and “to halt the persecution against Baha’is and religious minorities in Iran and to respect the freedom of religion and conscience as defined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Iran freely signed.”

In Australia, a Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesman told the newspaper Canberra Times in an article published on August 11, “We continue to call on Iran to ensure that all trials are fair and transparent and are conducted in accordance with Iran’s international obligations.”

In the United Kingdom, Foreign Secretary William Hague said in a statement issued on August 11 that he was “appalled to hear of the 20 year prison sentence handed out to the seven spiritual leaders of the Bahá’í faith in Iran…I call on the Iranian authorities urgently to consider any appeal against this decision, and to cease the harassment of the Bahá’í community.”

European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton said in a statement issued on August 12, “The European Union expresses its serious concern about the sentencing of seven Baha’i leaders in Iran to 20 years imprisonment and calls for their immediate release. The verdict appears to be based on the defendants belonging to a religious minority and the judicial process was seriously flawed, respecting neither Iran’s international commitments under the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) nor its national legislation regarding fair trial rights.”

European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek said in a statement issued on August 11, “I am very concerned at this news. The sentences against the representatives of the Baha’i faith are a shocking signal and an immense disappointment for all who have hoped for an improvement of the human rights situation in Iran. We have strong doubts about the fairness and transparency of the judicial procedure and I deeply deplore this. Therefore I call on the relevant authorities to allow a fair and open appeal procedure…”

In the Netherlands, Minister of Foreign Affairs Maxime Verhagen said in a statement issued on August 12, “That these people seem to be condemned because of their faith is shocking…I urge the Iranian authorities to abide by their international human rights obligations. The Baha’i leaders have a right to a fair trial and they must be released as soon as possible,” according to a translation provided by the Baha’i World News Service.

In Germany, Markus Löning, commissioner for human rights and humanitarian aid in the Foreign Office of the Federal Government, issued the following statement (provisional translation provided by the Baha’is of Germany):

The prison sentences against the Bahá’í-leaders are a massive setback for all those who engage themselves for the promotion of human dignity and human rights in Iran. There are major doubts as to the compliance with the basic legal rights during the judicial proceedings.

I therefore strongly appeal to the relevant authorities to annul yesterday’s judgment and to provide a fair and transparent court procedure.

Freedom of opinion, religious freedom, the protection of minorities and constitutional judicial proceedings are international obligations, which Iran has committed itself to.

For a long period of time, the German Federal Government has been observing the situation of the Bahá’ís in Iran with concern. Together with its EU-partners, it is continually advocating the improvement of their situation as well as the freedom of opinion and religious freedom in Iran.

The religious community of the Bahá’í has been forbidden in Iran since 1983. Their adherents are suffering from massive systematic repressions. The seven leading Bahá’í-members who were arrested in Mai 2008 are accused of espionage, collaboration with Israel and “conspiracy against the national security”.

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