Prominent Australian Lawyers to Call for Release of Baha’i Leaders

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The seven Baha’i leaders, prior to their arrest 

An open letter signed by 26 prominent Australian lawyers calling for the immediate release of seven Baha’i leaders in Iran will be launched at the NSW Parliament House in Sydney at 5.30 pm today, 11 May 2016.

The launch will include the announcement and public reading of a message from Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop calling for the release of the seven leaders and for the release of all prisoners of conscience in Iran today.

The signatories of the open letter include 16 Senior Counsel and Queen’s Counsel as well as senior legal academics, human rights specialists and other leading members of the profession.

Among them are: Mr Bret Walker SC; Professor George Williams AO; Hon Catherine Branson QC; Mr Julian Burnside AO QC; The Hon Mark Dreyfus QC MP; Mr Peter Wertheim AM; Mr Winston Terracini SC; Mr Julian McMahon; Mr Terrence Tobin QC.

One of the signatories, the Hon. John Dowd AO QC, will deliver the keynote address.

The letter is addressed to Iran’s ambassador to Australia, and urges Iran to uphold the rule of law and the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which it has ratified.

The letter backs the calls of the Australian Foreign Minister and high-level UN human rights experts for the immediate release of the leaders, who were sentenced to 20 years imprisonment. The eighth anniversary of the arrest and imprisonment of the leaders falls on 14 May 2016.

Australian citizens who are close relatives of the leaders will speak at the launch.

Clear violation

The letter notes that the seven had initially been imprisoned without charge and then had a “trial” involving six brief, closed court sessions.

“To this day, they have not been presented with formal charges or a judgement in writing, in clear violation of the Iranian constitution and the most basic requirements of procedural fairness and natural justice.

“Their lawyers were orally advised of their sentencing to twenty years in prison—the longest terms of any prisoners of conscience in Iran—on vague charges for which no evidence has ever been presented.”

The letter says that one of the lawyers brave enough to represent the Baha’is was Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi. Another had to flee the country, and two served prison sentences.

A spokesperson for the Australian Baha’i Community, Dr Natalie Mobini, said that Australian Baha’is admired and were grateful for the decision by such prominent lawyers to make a stand for the human rights of the seven Baha’i leaders.

“As more and more leading citizens of countries around the world join their governments and the United Nations in calling for the immediate release of the Bahai leaders, we look forward to the day when the seven step out of prison into the freedom they so richly deserve.”

The co-signatories:

1. Australian Lawyers for Human Rights

2. Professor Iain T. Benson

3. Hon Catherine Branson QC

4. Mr Julian Burnside AO QC

5. Mr Rodger M.A. Chongwe SC

6. Mr Robert Leonard Crowe SC

7. The Hon John Dowd AO QC

8. The Hon Mark Dreyfus QC MP

9. Mr Stephen Freeman

10. Mr Jeremy Gormly SC

11. Mr Noel Hutley SC

12. Mr Ian Lacey AM

13. Mr Philip Lynch

14. Mr Julian McMahon

15. Ms Jane Needham SC

16. Ms Elaine Pearson

17. Dr Sarah Pritchard

18. Professor Michael Quinlan

19. Mr Garry Rich SC

20. Mr John Stratton SC

21. Mr Winston Terracini SC

22. Dr Keith Thompson

23. Mr Terence Tobin QC

24. Mr Barry Toomey QC

25. Mr Bret Walker SC

26. Mr Peter Wertheim AM
27. Professor George Williams AO
Note: Mr Tim Wilson (Former Human Rights Commissioner) has also signed the letter

Read more information on the seven Baha’i leaders


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