Australia, Canada call for immediate release of imprisoned Baha'is

May 27, 2009
Member of Parliament Jim Turnour was one of six members of the Australian House of Representatives to speak in favor of a motion calling on Iran to release seven Baha’is imprisoned in Tehran for the past year without due legal process. “We will maintain close interest in this case and will continue to raise our concerns with the Iranian government,” he said during the discussion on 25 May 2009. (Photo copyright Parliament of Australia)

CANBERRA, Australia — The Australian Parliament has called on the government of Iran to release seven imprisoned Baha’i leaders “without delay.”

A motion from the House of Representatives expresses “serious concern” that the detained Baha’is have had no access to legal representation and have not been subject to due legal process.

It also expresses concern about charges of “spying, insulting religious sanctities, and propaganda against the Islamic Republic, and that these charges could attract the death penalty.”

Finally, the motion calls on Iran to “to respect rights to freedom of religion and the peaceful exercise of freedom of expression and association, in accordance with international human rights conventions.”

Six members of Parliament from both major parties spoke in support of the motion, which was approved on 25 May. One of them was Mr. Luke Simpkins.

“I would like to be able to say there has been some progress since I last spoke on this issue,” he said, “but the cause of justice in Iran has only gone backwards in the last few months.

“It has recently been publicized that the Baha’i seven may face another charge, that of spreading corruption on earth, which is in addition to the other charges reportedly laid. It is my firm view that all these charges have no validity and remain inconsistent with the teachings of the Baha’i Faith.”

IN OTTAWA, the Canadian government also issued a statement, published on 14 May – the one-year anniversary of the imprisonment of six of the seven Baha’i leaders. Minister of Foreign Affairs Lawrence Cannon said his government “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.”

He said Canada is “deeply troubled by the continued imprisonment of these Baha’i leaders, without charge or legal representation.”

“We believe they are being detained solely because of their faith,” he said.

IN BRUSSELS, the Presidency of the European Union has issued a strong statement expressing “deep concern about the increasing violation of religious freedom in Iran.”

The statement specifically names 13 individuals – five Christians, seven Baha’is, and one Shiite – who the EU says are currently imprisoned for legitimate expression of religious belief.

About the Baha’is, it says “evidence suggests that the persecution deliberately aims to suppress Baha’i religious identity and legitimate community activities.”

“Concerns relating to this case are further reinforced by numerous reports of official harassment of members of the Baha’i community, including detentions; police summons and pressure to desist from community religious activities,” said the statement, issued on 25 May.

The seven Baha'is referred to in all the pronouncements are Mrs. Fariba Kamalabadi, Mr. Jamaloddin Khanjani, Mr. Afif Naeimi, Mr. Saeid Rezaie, Mrs. Mahvash Sabet, Mr. Behrouz Tavakkoli, and Mr. Vahid Tizfahm.

All but Mrs. Sabet were arrested on 14 May 2008 at their homes in Tehran. Mrs. Sabet was arrested on 5 March 2008 while in Mashhad. The seven are being held in Evin prison in Tehran.

(Editor's note: The photograph was added to this Web page on 2 June 2009. Wording describing the statement from the European Union was changed on 8 June 2009.)