Global call for release of Iranian Baha'i leaders as trial session looms

11 June 2010

— On the eve of the fourth court hearing for Iran's seven imprisoned Baha'i leaders, voices are being raised around the world for them to be freed.

The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Delhi has addressed Iran's Supreme Leader calling for the release of the seven, "or at the very least for them to be released on bail and await a fair and open trial in accordance with the international standards of jurisprudence."

"In the court sessions held so far, no evidence of wrongdoing has been presented, as their lawyers have confirmed," Archbishop Vincent M. Concessao wrote in a letter to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, dated 5 June 2010.

Yesterday, the social activist and spiritual leader, Swami Agnivesh, led a peaceful procession through the streets of New Delhi to Hyderabad House, a government-owned venue used for major events and press conferences.

Campaigners – many of them wearing masks – carried banners and placards depicting the seven Baha'i leaders, as well as images of other prisoners currently being held.

Swami Agnivesh told the gathering that humanity demands love and respect for all and should allow people of different belief systems and ideologies to co-exist in peace and solidarity, reported The Hindu newspaper.

Global initiative

The march in New Delhi was a prelude to tomorrow's global day of action, which demands an end to human rights abuses in Iran, and marks the one-year anniversary of last year's contested presidential election.

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  • One of United4Iran's mobile billboards has been launched in London, England. It features the image of the seven Baha'i leaders and the slogan, "Unjustly jailed… »

  • The mobile billboard depicting the seven imprisoned Baha'i leaders is driven through Trafalgar Square in London, England.

The initiative - coordinated by United4Iran - is being cosponsored by numerous organizations including Amnesty International and the Baha'i International Community.

Prominent nongovernmental organizations are joining with a wide range of local, student and Internet-based groups to host simultaneous events in cities and on campuses around the globe. The campaign website can be visited here.

In the United Kingdom, a mobile billboard depicting the seven Baha'i leaders has been launched in London in order to bring attention to their plight.

Meanwhile, in the United States, Representative Frank R. Wolf, yesterday submitted a statement to the Congressional Record calling for renewed support for the seven.

"The world cannot turn a blind eye to this regime's brutal repression of its own people," said Mr Wolf.

"We must continue to advocate for due process and a fair trial for these seven Baha'i leaders and for basic rights for the community as a whole which according to the recently released report of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, "has long been subject to particularly severe religious violations in Iran."" he said.

UN Human Rights Council

Concerns have also been expressed this week in a debate at the 14th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva. The situation of Iran's persecuted Baha'i community was raised on Tuesday, 8 June, on behalf of the European Union by Spain. It was also mentioned in contributions made by Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States of America.

"We fear that the already poor human rights situation in Iran will continue to deteriorate if the international community does not continue to call the Iranian government to account for its actions," said the Canadian representative.

In addition to endorsing the statement of Spain, seven member states of the European Union specifically mentioned their own concerns about the persecution of Baha'is.

Austria reported how it "remains gravely concerned about the discrimination and harassment of religious minorities, in particular members of the Baha'i and the trial against seven of their leaders, which we follow very closely."

The trial of the seven Baha'i leaders began on 12 January after they had been incarcerated without charge in Tehran's Evin prison for 20 months. At the first hearing, held in Branch 28 of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran, the Baha'is categorically denied charges of espionage, propaganda activities against the Islamic order, and "corruption on earth," among other allegations.

The seven defendants are Fariba Kamalabadi, Jamaloddin Khanjani, Afif Naeimi, Saeid Rezaie, Mahvash Sabet, Behrouz Tavakkoli, and Vahid Tizfahm. Before their imprisonment, they attended to the spiritual and social needs of Iran's Baha'i community, which numbers more than 300,000.

There are currently some 41 Baha'is in detention in various cities in Iran.

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