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First Session Staged Behind Closed Doors

Shirin Ebadi, a Nobel Peace Prize defending the Baha’i leaders

Iran: Tuesday, January 12, 2010 - Iran’s Ebadi says seven Baha’is must be acquitted Washington, 12 January (Washington TV)—In an exclusive telephone interview with WashingtonTV on Tuesday, Shirin Ebadi, one of the lawyers defending the seven detained Baha’i leaders in Iran, whose first trial hearing took place today in Tehran, said that if “justice” were to prevail, the only verdict that could be reached over this case was one of “acquittal”.

“If justice is to be carried out and an impartial judge should investigate the charges leveled against my clients, the only verdict that could be reached is that of acquittal,” said Ebadi, in comments translated from the Persian.

But she went on to express regret about the Judiciary’s behavior. “Unfortunately, for some time now, the Judiciary has distanced itself from justice.”

Ebadi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, also criticized the manner in which today’s hearing, which was the first session of the trial, was staged behind closed doors.

She said: “On the basis of the information given to me by the families of my clients, the first session of the trial began today and out of the four lawyers which the Centre for the Defense of Human Rights [established by Ebadi and other lawyers in Iran and currently closed by the authorities] had assigned to them – myself, Mr [Abdolfattah] Soltani, Mr [Hadi] Esma’ilzadeh and Ms [Mahnaz]Parakand – [the latter two], Mr Esma’ilzadeh and Ms Parakand took part in the hearing, but in spite of our request, it was announced that the hearing would be held behind closed doors and they even made the relatives leave the room.”

Ebadi explained that her clients have been convicted of “spying for America and Israel, acting against national security and [engaging in] propaganda against the [Islamic Republic’s] system”, adding: “I read the dossier and fortunately or unfortunately, found in it no cause or evidence to sustain the criminal charges upheld by the prosecutor.”

The Baha’i International Community has categorically denied the accusations and said that today’s trial in Tehran was marked by “numerous violations” of legal due process.

The defendants, Mr Behrouz Tavakkoli, Mr Saeed Rezai’i, Mrs Fariba Kamalabadi, Mr Vahid Tizfahm, Mr Jamaloddin Khanjani and Mr Afif Na’imi, were arrested in their homes in Tehran on 14 May 2008 and Mrs Mahvash Sabet was arrested on 5 March 2008 in northeastern city of Mashhad.

On the question of the postponement of the trial of the detainees, Ebadi said: “This case was set up wrongly from the start, that is, my clients should have been released immediately. This delay which has lasted up to now contravenes the laws of the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

Asked about the reasons behind increasing pressure brought to bear in recent months against the Baha’is, including scurrilous accusations against them made by hard-line Iranian media, Ebadi linked these to the protests across Iran following the disputed presidential election.

“The spontaneous popular street protests against the existing situation caused them [officials of the Islamic Republic] to link them to the outside. First, they said that Israel, America and Britain were the perpetrators. Then they said that it was the people who killed Neda [Aqa-soltan]. They then said that the people had themselves inflicted injuries and that the officials are innocent. They offered innumerable reasons – none of which were acceptable to public opinion in Iran and now, it is the turn of the Baha’is to be blamed for the protests and the Green Movement and to create a certain situation. But you know that none of these are correct,” Ebadi said.

She added: “If the people come out onto the streets, they come in order to declare their dissatisfaction with their situation and this is not connected with any faction or group.”

Regarding the difficulties she faced as a defense lawyer for the Baha’is on trial, Ebadi said: “When I and my colleagues accepted to act as their defense lawyers, they [detainees] had not been allowed to see their families for over a year. And for some time too, they were not allowed to meet with us. After a year and a half when the investigation ended, I and the rest of the lawyers were permitted to read the dossier and we met them on one occasion in prison.”

In her interview with WashingtonTV, Ebadi also spoke about the situation of the Baha’is in Iran and criticized the fact that their rights as citizens were being denied to them.

“Unfortunately, Baha’is do not enjoy their rights as citizens. This includes the right to work in government offices; the right to obtain a permit to operate a business or the right to set up different educational establishments. Most important of all, from the start of the [Islamic] revolution up to now, they have not had the right to a university education.”

Source: WashingtonTV correspondent

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