Vancouver, British Columbia, 11 August 2010 (CBNS) — More than 1,400 Baha’is meet this weekend at a downtown Vancouver hotel for the annual Association for Baha’i Studies Conference amidst community-wide anguish at the sentencing in Iran on Sunday of seven Baha’i leaders.
The news of the 20-year prison terms handed down on Sunday, 8 August, on charges of “espionage”, “spreading corruption on earth” and “insulting religious sanctities” follows months of increasing persecution of Iran’s Baha’i community.
Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi has said the legal process was full of irregularities, that no evidence was presented, and that the Baha’i prisoners should be immediately released. Lawyers for the prisoners have said they will launch an appeal as it is clear to observers that the Baha’i leaders have been sentenced solely because of their religion.
Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lawrence Cannon, issued a strongly worded statement indicating that “Canada remains deeply disturbed by reports that these individuals have now been sentenced to 20-year prison terms… ”, calling attention to the fact that there were no “written judgments or due process.”
The European Union President and the German, French and Australian governments have also condemned the sentences as have leading international human rights organizations including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
Two Canadians are close relatives of two of the prisoners. Ottawa engineer, Naeim Tavakkoli, is the son of one of the prisoners, Behrouz Tavakkoli, and Montreal film-student Nika Khanjani is the niece of Jaloddin Khanjani, another prisoner.
A number of those attending the conference in Vancouver know some of the prisoners. In addition to Tavakkoli and Khanjani, the other five are Saeid Rezaie, Vahid Tizfahm, Afif Naeimi, and two women, Fariba Kamalabadi and Mahvash Sabet.
Among speakers at the Conference, international human rights expert Professor Payam Akhavan of McGill University will be delivering a talk “From Hatred to Humanity” related to the situation of the Baha’is in Iran.
Source: CBNC – http://www.bahainews.ca/en/100811-vancouver