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Will They Ever See Light Again

Qezel Hesar prison, Iran


Washington, 15 October —The trial of seven members of the Bahá'í faith in Iran, which was due to take place on 18 October, will likely be delayed again, the Bahá'í World News Service said on Wednesday.

While the family members of the seven prisoners have not been informed of any change to the trial date, Iranian law requires that lawyers receive a formal writ of notification two business days prior to appearing in court.

The seven Baha'i prisoners 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 one of the group were arrested on 14 May 2008 at their homes in Tehran. (history repeats itself)

The seven Bahá'í prisoners 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 one of the group were arrested on 14 May 2008 at their homes in Tehran.

"It is unclear whether the trial will take place on Sunday, or whether it will be postponed again," said Diane Ala'i, the Baha'i International Community representative to the United Nations in Geneva.

"If the trial does not go ahead, the seven Baha'is should be released on bail, as Iranian law requires," she said. "They are completely innocent of the accusations against them and should not have been imprisoned in the first place."

However, it seems unlikely that the trial will take place on Saturday, since there is only one business day remaining prior to then. Thursday was a holiday in Iran, and Friday is not a business day.

Another factor that may delay the hearing, says the Bahá'í World News Service, is that the Judiciary has not yet responded to an appeal submitted by the defense attorneys in early September, which argued that the continued detention of the seven defendants contravened the law.

Official Iranian news accounts have said that the seven are accused of “espionage for Israel, insulting religious sanctities and propaganda against the Islamic Republic.” The Bahá'í International Community categorically denies all the charges.

The Bahá'í faith, which was founded in Iran in 1863, is not recognized by the Iranian government. There are some 300,000 Bahá'ís living in Iran, making the faith the largest minority religion there.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moonUN Secretary General Ban Ki-moonSecretary general of UN releases report criticizing human rights abuses in Iran.

UNITED NATIONS — UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon yesterday expressed strong criticism of Iran's human rights record, voicing concern about the use of excessive force after Iran's presidential election, the harassment of women's rights activists, the ongoing execution of juveniles, and the continued persecution of minorities, including Bahá'ís.

In a 19-page report written specifically to address a request made last December from the UN General Assembly about human rights in Iran, Mr. Ban said there have been "negative developments" in the area of civil and political rights since 2008.

The year saw "an increase in human rights violations targeting women, university students, teachers, workers and other activist groups, particularly in the aftermath of the elections," Mr. Ban said.

"Members of various ethnic and minority groups faced harassment, violence and, in some cases, persecution," he added, noting that "a pattern of concern arises with respect to the protection of minorities, including the Baha'i community, the Arab minority in Khuzestan, the Nematollahi Sufi Muslim community, the Kurdish community, the Sunni community, the Baluchi community, and the Azeri-Turk community."

The report made specific mention of seven imprisoned Baha'i leaders who were arrested in the spring of 2008 and have since been held in Evin prison, noting that the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has written to Iran "on numerous occasions to express concern and seek clarification" about the status of the seven.

Mr. Ban also noted that during the year reports "continued to be received about members of the Baha'i community being subjected to arbitrary detention, confiscation of property and denial of employment, government benefits, and access to higher education."

The report, which was dated 23 September 2009 but actually released yesterday, focused extensively on the government's response to post-election protests. It noted that Mr. Ban himself had on 22 June issued a statement "expressing dismay at the post-election violence, particularly the use of force against civilians, which had led to the loss of life and injuries."

That statement, the report noted, called on the authorities to respect fundamental civil and political rights, especially freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, and freedom of information. It also called for an immediate stop to the arrests, threats, and use of force. Yet, the report noted, a spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry said the following day that he rejected the secretary general's statement.

Like a similar report he issued last year, Mr. Ban also took note of reports of Iran's continuing execution of juveniles, reports of the use of torture, and the oppression of women's rights activists.

"I encourage the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to address the concerns highlighted in the report and to continue to revise national laws, particularly the new penal code and juvenile justice laws, to ensure compliance with international human rights standards and prevent discriminatory practices against women, ethnic and religious minorities, and other minority groups," he said in the report's conclusion.

Bani Dugal, the principal representative of the Bahá'í International Community to the United Nations said Mr. Ban's report was extremely welcome – and timely.

"The situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran" - Read more...

(Source: Bahá'í World News Service - WashingtonTV)

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