The seven Iranian Baha’i leaders who formerly looked after the needs of Iran’s Baha’i community.

Trial of Iran’s seven Baha’i leaders

Timeline of events

The seven Baha’i leaders, whose trial began on 12 January 2010 and ended on 14 June 2010, formerly attended to the spiritual and social needs of Iran’s Baha’i community, which numbers more than 300,000.

The following is a timeline of events surrounding their imprisonment and trial, including the major international actions that have taken place in their defence.

2012

24 May
U.S.A. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor – Michael H. Posner – draws attention to jailed leaders.
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14 May
Fourth year anniversary of arrests of Fariba Kamalabadi, Jamaloddin Khanjani, Afif Naeimi, Saeid Rezaie, Behrouz Tavakkoli and Vahid Tizfahm.
Canada House of Commons debate on fourth anniversary. Scott Reid MP describes Iran's persecution of Baha'is as "one of the great tragedies of modern times."
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Canada Statement by Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird marking fourth anniversary of imprisonment. “Canada remains deeply concerned by Iran’s ongoing, persistent and pervasive persecution of religious minorities.”
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1 April
The seven prisoners have spent a cumulative total of 10,000 days in jail.
Global initiative Human rights organization United4 coordinates day of action to free the seven in 12 of the world's major cities.
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29 March
U.S.A. Senate passes resolution calling for release of the seven.
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20 March
U.S.A. Annual report of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) asks US officials to call for the release of jailed Baha'i leaders.
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2 March
Amnesty International Report highlighting widening crackdown on dissent in Iran includes example of seven leaders.
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13 February
Australia: MPs call upon Iranian parliament to seek a judicial review of the trial of the seven former Baha’i leaders.
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11 January
UK: Members of Parliament sharply criticize Iran’s human rights violations and express concern for imprisoned leaders.
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2011

19 December
United Nations: Resolution reflects growing intolerance for human rights violations
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29 November
Canada: Senator Roméo Dallaire, who led the UN peacekeeping mission to Rwanda in the 1990s, speaks in the Senate about “attacks against the Baha’i leaders”
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21 November
United Nations: By a vote of 86 to 32, the General Assembly's Third Committee approve a resolution that catalogs a wide range of abuses in Iran.
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23 October
United Nations: Special rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Heiner Bielefeldt, describes Iran's persecution of Baha'is is among the most "extreme manifestations of religious intolerance and persecution" in the world today.
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14 October
United Nations: Monitor for Iran presents first findings on human rights abuses
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13 October
United Nations: Secretary General “deeply troubled” by developments in Iran
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18 September
Brazil: 25,000 marchers call for religious freedom and justice
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6 July
Netherlands: Mahvash Sabet appears on postage stamp
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29 June
European Parliament: Lawyer for jailed leaders speaks out
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20 June
Brazil: Rally in Rio calls for Iran to respect human rights
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17 June
UK: Panel explores crisis of human rights in Iran
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31 May
European Parliament: “Baha’i Question” cited at human rights hearing
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25 May
Baha'i International Community confirms that Fariba Kamalabadi and Mahvash Sabet have been returned to Evin prison
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21 May
UK Parliamentarians call for release of seven
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14 May
Three year anniversary of arrests of Fariba Kamalabadi, Jamaloddin Khanjani, Afif Naeimi, Saeid Rezaie, Behrouz Tavakkoli and Vahid Tizfahm.
3 May
Fariba Kamalabadi and Mahvash Sabet transferred to Qarchak prison.
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29 April
UK: Prime Minister "deeply concerned" at plight of seven
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5 April
Germany: Human rights representative "furious" at increase in sentences
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4 April
Brazil: Federal Chamber of Deputies hears plea for support of Iran's Baha'is
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Christian Solidarity Worldwide: Reinstated sentence is "further blow" to Baha'i leaders
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UK: Foreign Secretary "deeply disturbed" at reinstated sentence
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1 April
European Parliament: President's "grave concern" at "unjustified detention."
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France: Government "very concerned" about situation of the seven.
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EU High representative Baroness Catherine Ashton - “immediately release the seven Baha’i leaders”
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31 March
U.S.A. Government condemns “unprecedented” step to reinstatement of 20-year sentence
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Amnesty International Describes reimposition of 20-year jail term as “outrageous”
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20 March
U.S.A. President Barack Obama mentions the Baha’is of Iran in his annual Nowruz message.
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17 March
Netherlands Dutch Foreign Affairs Committee calls for immediate release of the seven.
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16 March
Prisoners told their original 20-year jail terms have been reinstated.
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14 March
India 90 prominent individuals renew support for prisoners in an open letter to Iran.
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11 March
Funeral of Mrs. Ashraf Khanjani Mr. Jamaloddin Khanjani is unable to attend his wife’s funeral
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10 March
European Parliament Resolution adopted on the EU’s approach to Iran, reiterating call for release of the seven
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5 March
Three year anniversary of the arrest of Mahvash Sabet
23 February
USA Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urges Iran to free all political prisoners and persecuted minorities.
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18 February
FIDH International Federation for Human Rights and two other human rights organizations call for the urgent release of the seven.
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12 February
Prisoners transferred Seven moved to more brutal sections of Gohardasht Prison.
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3 February
UK Government reiterates concern for the seven and says Iran must “cease its harassment” of Baha’is.
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31 January
Human Rights Watch Group says Iranian laws continue to discriminate against religious minorities
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2010

21 December
United Nations UN strongly condemns Iran’s human rights record, including repeatedly denying the due process of law in the case of the seven.
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17 December
India Former Deputy Prime Minister and other prominent Indians appeal to Iran for justice
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Canada Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon reiterates Canada’s concern at Iran’s deteriorating human rights situation.
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16 December
Ireland Foreign Affairs Minister says Ireland will continue to call for seven to be freed.
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13 December
Christian Solidarity Worldwide calls for release of seven jailed Baha’i leaders.
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18 November
United Nations Third Committee sharply criticizes Iran for its continued and increasing violations of human rights.
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17 November
United States State Department reports that Iranian government’s respect for religious freedom in the country has continued to deteriorate.
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15 November
Australia Supporting a bipartisan motion on human rights in Iran, MPs call for an end persecution of the Baha’is.
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19 October
Hungary Hungarian government states that the safety and emancipation of the Bahá’ís must be ensured.
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25 October
Spain: City Councils of Bailén and Guarromán – in the Spanish province of Jaén –unanimously approve separate institutional declarations stating concern over the deprivation of rights and systematic persecution faced by the members of the Baha’i community in Iran.
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18 October
United Nations: UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, once again expresses strong concern over Iran's ongoing human rights violations, including its persecution of Baha'is. Mr. Ban specifically notes the trial and reported sentencing of the seven Baha'i leaders.
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9 October
UK: Three of the United Kingdom’s most prominent lawyers express serious concern at the lack of due process accorded to the seven leaders during their trial.
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4 October
UK: Religious leaders say they view the imprisonment of the seven Baha’i leaders as a gross violation of the fundamental human right to freedom of religion.
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17 September
Canada Minister of Foreign Affairs Lawrence Cannon notes “with regret” reports that the imprisonment of the seven Baha’i leaders is to continue with a sentence reduced to ten years. “Canada maintains that these individuals appear to have been imprisoned because of their religious beliefs and that therefore they should be released unconditionally and reunited with their families as soon as possible,” said Mr. Cannon.
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15 September
20-year prison sentences reportedly reduced. The Baha’i International Community learns that the lawyers representing the seven received oral notification that the 20-year jail terms have been halved to 10 years.
31 August
India 31 prominent Indians issue an open letter appealing to the Iranian government to release the seven immediately and to ensure a fair and open appeal process in accordance to international standards of jurisprudence.
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20 August
New Zealand’s Foreign Minister Murray McCully expresses deep concern at the 20-year prison sentences. "It is apparent that the trial was conducted in a manner that was neither fair nor transparent,” Mr McCully says. “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 Bahá'í."
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17 August
Minority Rights Group International (MRG) says it is deeply concerned by reports indicating that seven Iranian Baha'í leaders have each received jail sentences of 20 years…'Given that independent observers were not allowed to attend the trial, and the history of persecution that the Baha'í community has faced in Iran, the outcome will do nothing to encourage faith in the Iranian justice system,' says Carl Soderbergh, MRG's Director of Policy and Communications.
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10 – 12 August
Condemnation of jail terms from governments and human rights organizations around the world. Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, the European Union and the President of the European Parliament, express strong statements of concern. International human rights organizations join the chorus of protest against the reported prison sentences.
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Reports reach Baha’i International Community that prisoners have been moved from Evin Prison in Tehran to Gohardasht Prison - also known as Rajaishahr Prison - in Karaj, some 20 kilometers west of the Iranian capital.
8 August
It is learned that the seven have been sentenced. The lawyers representing the seven are reportedly informed by the judge presiding over the case that each of the seven prisoners have received jail sentences of 20 years. The lawyers state their intention of launching an appeal.
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24 July
Attorneys representing the seven issue a formal request that the prisoners be released on bail, as permitted under Iranian law. Consequently, the judge presiding over the case tells the prisoners that their detention has once again been extended for two months.
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12 -14 June
Fourth court appearance. The seven Baha’i leaders appear in court on three successive mornings, before the trial concludes.
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12 June
Global day of action in more than 80 cities, organised by human rights group United4Iran, highlights the case of the seven Baha’i leaders and others suffering human rights abuses.
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Canada: Prime Minister Stephen Harper urges Iran to respect due process in the trial.
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11 June
U.K.: Foreign Minister Alistair Burt issues a statement calling on the Iranian government “to ensure, without delay, that the rights of these individuals are fully protected, that they are given due legal process, including being released on bail and given a fair and transparent trial, in accordance with international standards."
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8 June
United Nations: Concerns for the seven Baha’i prisoners expressed in a debate at the 14th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. The situation of Iran's persecuted Baha’i community is raised on behalf of the European Union by Spain. It is also mentioned in contributions made by Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States of America.
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14 May
Two year anniversary of the arrest of six of the Baha’i leaders
New details about the harsh conditions of their incarceration emerge, prompting renewed calls for their immediate release.
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12 April
Third court appearance. When the prisoners arrive at the court, their families are not allowed to enter, signaling a closed hearing. Inside the courtroom, however, the prisoners see numerous officials and interrogators from the Ministry of Intelligence – along with a film crew which had already set up its cameras. Concerned over the presence of non-judicial personnel in a supposedly closed hearing, the Baha’is – with the agreement of their attorneys – decline to be party to the proceedings. The judge adjourns the session.
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5 March
Two year anniversary of the arrest of Mrs. Mahvash Sabet
7 February
Second court appearance. The session is once again closed, and family members are not permitted in the courtroom. The hearing, which lasts just over one hour, does not go beyond procedural issues. No date is given for any future sessions.
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13 January
U.K.: Amnesty International urges the Iranian authorities to release the seven who appear to be facing a "show trial" in Tehran on a collection of spurious charges.
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12 January
First court appearance of the seven. The session is closed to the public, but accounts in government-sponsored news media say the defendants were formally charged with espionage, propaganda activities against the Islamic order, the establishment of an illegal administration, cooperation with Israel, sending secret documents outside the country, acting against the security of the country, and corruption on earth. They deny all the charges.
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Mrs. Shirin Ebadi, one of the lawyers for the seven, says she carefully read the dossier of charges against them and “found in it no cause or evidence to sustain the criminal charges upheld by the prosecutor.”
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Brussels: European Union statement calls for a “just, fair and open trial respecting all international standards and obligations. ..."
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Brazil: Luiz Couto, the president of the Human Rights Commission of the Federal Chamber of Deputies, writes in a letter to the Iranian ambassador to Brazil that it appears the "trial is not transparent and public," and that any closed trial would violate the right to a full and fair defense.
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U.S.A.: Department of State condemns Iran's decision to move ahead with the trial: “Authorities have detained these persons for more than 20 months, without making public any evidence against them and giving them little access to legal counsel. These persons are entitled to due process.”
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India: Prominent Indians call upon their government to take up the issue of the Baha’i persecution with Tehran. "Our country has a long record of pluralism and tolerance and must speak out," said Maja Daruwala, director of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative.
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U.K.: Leading human rights barrister Cherie Blair calls for the release of "this group of people who live a religion which preaches peace and did nothing whatsoever to deserve this trial."
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8 January
Canada: Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon issues a strong statement: “It is deplorable that these individuals were detained on the sole basis of their faith and have been denied a fair trial,” he says.
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2009

18 October
Attorneys and families of the seven arrive at court in Tehran for the trial to be told that it would not take place.
15 October
United Nations: The U.N. Secretary General releases a report criticizing human rights abuses in Iran. The report makes specific mention of the seven, noting that the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has written to Iran "on numerous occasions to express concern and seek clarification" about their status.
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12 October
Hungary: Senior State Secretary Vilmos Szabo of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs states that Hungary “unequivocally condemns … the severe violations of human rights in Iran” and supports the “immediate release of the incarcerated Baha’i leaders.” If the Baha’is go to trial, he says, international observers must be allowed in.
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18 August
Trial date reportedly set by judicial officials, despite the fact that the lead lawyers registered with the court to represent them are either in prison or outside the country. Further, efforts to have the accused released on bail have not succeeded. The trial is postponed until 18 October.
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15 July
U.K.: British Prime Minister Gordon Brown meets with a delegation and expresses his government’s concern over the continuing detention of the seven.
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14 July
U.K.: Amnesty International calls on the Iranian authorities “to release the seven immediately and unconditionally, as it considers them to be prisoners of conscience, held solely on account of their beliefs or peaceful activities on behalf of the Baha’i community.”
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11 July
Original trial date for the seven given orally to family members of the seven. The trial does not go ahead and no further date is given.
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9 July
U.S.A. The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) publishes a press release, demanding the release of seven who “could face the death penalty, noting that this particular action is just one manifestation of the much broader pattern and practice of the theocratically supported repression that marks Iran’s current electoral crisis.”
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25 May
Australia: Parliament calls on the government of Iran to release the detainees “without delay.” A motion from the House of Representatives expresses “serious concern” that they have had no access to legal representation and have not been subject to due legal process.
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Belgium: The Presidency of the European Union issues a strong statement expressing “deep concern about the increasing violation of religious freedom in Iran.” The statement specifically names 13 individuals – five Christians, the seven Baha’i leaders, and one Shiite – who the EU says are currently imprisoned for legitimate expression of religious belief.
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14 May
One year anniversary of the arrest of six of the seven Baha’i leaders.
The families of the seven are told of a possible new charge – “the spreading of corruption on earth,” which carries the threat of death under the penal code of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
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Canada: Minister of Foreign Affairs Lawrence Cannon “calls upon the Iranian authorities to immediately release the seven Baha’i leaders and to cease the harassment of members of the Baha’i Faith.”
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22 April
UK: Prime Minister Gordon Brown sends a message to the Baha’i community, saying: “We have raised our concerns with the Iranian government and I urge the authorities to ensure that these individuals receive a fair trial and ask them to put an end to discrimination against the wider Baha’i community within Iran.” Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, expresses his solidarity with the Baha’i leadership. A message written on his behalf says he “has made clear to the Iranian authorities his profound disapproval of the way in which the leadership has been treated since their arrest and detention in harsh conditions and without charge last year. The charges now brought go against all the experience of Baha’is as peaceful people and loyal citizens of their countries.”
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30 March
Canada: House of Commons unanimously adopts a strongly worded motion condemning the persecution of Baha’is in Iran and calling on the Iranian government to release the seven leaders.
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5 March
One year anniversary of the arrest of Mrs. Mahvash Sabet
4 March
The Baha’i International Community issues an open letter to Iran's prosecutor general explaining the innocence of the Baha’i community in the face of accusations made by the government and asking for fairness in any upcoming trial of the seven. The letter comes after a series of statements from Ayatollah Najafabadi quoted in the Iranian news media levelling charges at the Baha’is and stating that the ad hoc arrangements that tend to the spiritual and social affairs of the Baha’i community of Iran are illegal. The seven respond from their prison cell that if the current arrangements for administering the affairs of the Baha’i community are no longer acceptable to the government, to bring them to a close would not present a major obstacle. They said this is now being done, to further demonstrate the goodwill that the Baha’is have consistently shown to the government for the past 30 years.
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U.S.A. In Washington, Freedom House publishes a condemnation of Iran over the possibility of a trial for the seven, saying: “The five men and two women should be released immediately, along with dozens of other Baha’is who are in prison for exercising their human right to religious freedom.” The Institute for Religion and Public Policy, also based in Washington, calls the charges “absurd.”
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U.S.A.: Department of State condemns “the Iranian government’s decision to level baseless charges of espionage against seven leaders of the Iranian Baha’i community.”
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India: 32 prominent citizens – among them individuals from the judiciary and official agencies, religious leaders, artists, and representatives of NGOs, academia and the corporate sector – sign a document asking the government of Iran “to dismiss the arbitrary 'politically motivated' charges against the seven innocent Baha’i leaders and release them immediately and unconditionally."
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UK: Amnesty International issues an “urgent action” appeal on behalf of the seven, calling for their “immediate and unconditional release.”
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Canada: Member of Parliament and former Minister of Justice Irwin Cotler tells the House of Commons that the charges against the seven are “trumped up.”
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24 February
Canada: The Parliamentary Sub-Committee on Human Rights adopts a resolution asking the Iranian government to reconsider charges against the seven and release them immediately. Failing this, the panel asks that the government “proceed to trial without further delay, ensuring that the proceedings are open and fair and are conducted in the presence of international observers.”
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20 February
Netherlands: A statement published on the Web site of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs says, “The Netherlands fears that the trial will not be fair, and it has asked Iran through the EU to allow an independent observer to monitor the judicial process.”
17 February
The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran (ICHR) publishes a statement on its Web site saying, “These accusations are very serious. All evidence, from their arrest to the upcoming trial, points to the fact that the accusations are baseless and have political roots.”
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16 February
UK: Foreign Office Minister Bill Rammell expresses concern at the imminent trial of the seven, saying: “The Iranian government appears to be increasingly using vaguely worded charges of this nature to target human rights defenders and religious minorities. It is hard not to conclude that these people are being held solely on account of their religious beliefs or their peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression and association.”
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13 February
U.S.A.: The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom issues a statement saying “it is disappointing that the Iranian government is demonstrating that it will use any pretext, however baseless, to harass and detain those whose religious beliefs differ from those enforced by the state.”
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11 February
Iranian ISNA news agency quotes Tehran’s deputy public prosecutor as saying that the seven have been accused of espionage and other crimes and that their case will be referred to the Revolutionary Court next week.
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Also in February
Belgium: The European Union issues a statement expressing its “deep concern” over Iran’s plans to bring seven imprisoned Baha’i leaders to trial for espionage and other charges soon.
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Germany: A spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel says the detainees would soon be sentenced after a quick trial, and summons Iran's Charge d'Affaires for talks with a senior German official.
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German Bundestag member Dr. Peter Ramsauer, leader of the Christian Social Union party, expresses “deep concern” over the fate of the seven. “Our minimum expectation for a fair trial is unconstrained access for the defense attorney, the Nobel Prize winner Shirin Ebadi, to her clients and to have a public trial,” he said.
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2008

23 December
Baha’i International Community expresses its “grave concern” over the closing by the Iranian government of Shirin Ebadi’s Defenders of Human Rights Center in Tehran.
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18 December
United Nations: U.N. General Assembly adopts a resolution that expresses “deep concern at serious human rights violations” in Iran and notes “the arrest and detention of seven Baha’i leaders without charge or access to legal representation.”
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20 October
United Nations: U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon expresses concern over the arrests, as well as other human rights violations in Iran. Nearly a full page of his 20-page document is dedicated to the situation of Iran’s Baha’i community.
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12 August
Baha’i International Community dismisses as “fraudulent” stories in the Iranian media about the seven and the efforts of Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi and others to defend them. The media claims that Mrs. Ebadi’s daughter has become a Baha’i and that Baha’is are agents of Zionism.
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30 June
Canada: Six women Nobel Peace Prize winners issue a statement calling on the Iranian government to free the seven immediately.
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26 May
Mahvash Sabet moved to Evin prison in Tehran.
20 May
An Iranian government spokesman says that the Baha’is were arrested for “security reasons and not for their faith”, and that they were linked to “foreigners, the Zionists in particular.” The Baha’i International Community describes the allegations as “utterly baseless and without documentation.”
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14 May
Arrest of the six other Baha’i leaders. After an early morning sweep on their homes in Tehran, the six are taken to Evin prison where they are held incommunicado.
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5 March
Arrest of Mahvash Sabet. She was summoned to Mashhad by the Ministry of Intelligence ostensibly on the grounds that she was to be questioned about a Baha’i burial.
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