Cherie Blair QC – one of the United Kingdom’s leading human rights lawyers and wife of former Prime Minister Tony Blair – is calling for Iran to ensure that seven leaders of the Bahá’í faith – held in prison for more than a year without charge or access to their legal counsel – be given a fair trial and a chance of justice.
In an article published in Thursday’s edition of The Times, Mrs Blair writes that, in the aftermath of Iran’s disputed Presidential election result, there is a risk that the ongoing threat to the country’s largest non-Muslim religious minority may be overlooked. “They face a very uncertain, dangerous future,” writes Ms Blair.
Read Cherie Blair’s article here (Times Online)
The five men and two women, detained in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison since the spring of 2008, helped see to the minimum needs of Iran’s Bahá’í community after all Bahá’í institutions were banned by the Iranian government. Their informal committee was disbanded along with all local-level Bahá’í administrative groups in Iran in March this year. Family members of the seven have recently been told that they will face trial on Saturday 11 July. Spurious allegations made against them include “espionage for Israel”, “insulting religious sanctities”, “propaganda against the Islamic republic” and “spreading corruption on earth.”
“We must urge that the Iranian Government give the leaders of the Bahá’í community a fair trial,” writes Mrs Blair, “and allow independent observers access to ensure this happens. We must also call on Iran to live up to their international obligations to protect all their citizens and allow them to hold and practise their religious beliefs, without discrimination or fear.”
Mrs Blair’s article also pays tribute to Iranian lawyer and Nobel peace laureate Shirin Ebadi, who announced that she would defend the Bahá’í prisoners. As a result, Dr Ebadi’s “offices were raided and shut down, angry mobs appeared outside her home and she, and her family, received renewed and serious threats to their safety,” writes Mrs Blair.
“Shirin Ebadi is a courageous woman and a brilliant advocate. But we can not let her carry this burden on her own,” Mrs Blair says.