CANBERRA, 12 August 2010
The Australian Government has expressed “deep concern” following reports that seven Iranian Baha’i leaders have each received prison sentences of 20 years.
Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, the United States, the European Parliament and international human rights organisations have also issued strong statements of concern.
A spokesperson for Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said that Australia remains “deeply concerned about the treatment of the Iranian Baha’i community”.
“The Government has expressed its strong concerns about the treatment of Baha’is, including the case of the seven community leaders, on many occasions with the Iranian Government,” the spokeperson said.
“The Government has also raised these concerns in the UN Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly,” the spokesperson said.
“We continue to call on Iran to ensure that all trials are fair and transparent and are conducted in accordance with Iran’s international obligations.”
The United Kingdom’s Foreign Secretary, William Hague, said he was “appalled” to hear of the 20-year sentence. He described the continuing discrimination against Iranian Baha’is as “completely unacceptable”.
“The Iranian judiciary has repeatedly failed to allay international and domestic concerns that these seven men and women are guilty of anything other than practising their faith,” Mr Hague said.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the United States “strongly condemns” the sentencing of seven Iranian Baha’i leaders to 20 years imprisonment.
Mrs Clinton described the act as a “violation of Iran’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”
The United States is “deeply concerned with the Iranian government’s continued persecution of Baha’is and other religious minority communities in Iran,” Mrs Clinton said.
Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lawrence Cannon, said that his country was “deeply disturbed” by the sentences that were “passed without either written judgments or due process.”
He urged Iran to grant bail to the prisoners.
Germany said Iran must annul the judgment and “provide a fair and transparent court procedure”.
In expressing France’s “consternation” at the 20-year jail term, French Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Christine Fages, said Iranian authorities should stop persecuting Baha’is and other religious minorities.
In calling for the release of the Baha’i leaders, the Netherlands Minister of Foreign Affairs, Maxime Verhagen, expressed his country’s concern about the judicial process and its fears that the arrest and sentence is “based solely on discrimination of religious belief”.
The President of the European Parliament, Jerzy Buzek, called the sentences “a shocking signal and an immense disappointment for all who have hoped for an improvement of the human rights situation in Iran.”
Human Rights Organisations
International human rights organisations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have joined the protest.
Amnesty International described the Baha’i leaders as “prisoners of conscience jailed solely on account of their beliefs or peaceful activities on behalf of the persecuted Baha’i minority.”
“The seven were held for months without charge before being subjected to a parody of a trial — they must be immediately released,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa deputy director.
Australian Baha’i Community spokesperson Tessa Scrine said: “Australian Baha’is greatly appreciate the support of the Government in light of the reports of these outrageous sentences.”
Baha’i representative to the United Nations in Geneva, Diane Ala’i said statements from governments and human rights organisations “demonstrate that increasing numbers of people of all races and religions throughout the world want to see justice done in Iran – not just for the Baha’is but all of its citizens who face gross human rights violations.”