Brian O’Shea (Waterford, Labour)
Question 268: To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will support the campaign of the Baha’i international community for the release of seven former members of the Yaran group in Iran (details supplied) and all the Baha’is who are imprisoned throughout Iran; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [47860/10]
Micheál Martin (Minister, Department of Foreign Affairs; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
As the Deputy will be aware from my previous replies on this matter, I am very conscious of the discriminatory treatment of the Baha’i community in Iran and of the particular case of the seven former Baha’i community leaders (known collectively as the Yaran), who have been in detention since 2008 and were sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment in August 2010, with this sentence subsequently being reduced to ten years. I have received a copy of the recent letter sent by the Baha’i community in Iran to the Head of the Iranian Judiciary, Ayatollah Larijani, asking for the release of these detainees, a call which I fully support as I know do many Members of this House. I have personally raised the case of the seven imprisoned Baha’i leaders, and matters relating to human rights and religious freedom generally, directly with the Iranian authorities at the highest levels, including with the Iranian Foreign Minister in June this year. In addition, my Department frequently conveys my concerns on such matters to the Iranian Ambassador here. Officials of my Department also meet regularly with members of the Baha’i community in Ireland.
The EU High Representative issued a strong declaration on 12 August, which Ireland fully supported, expressing the EU’s serious concern about the sentencing and calling for their immediate release. The declaration drew attention to Iran’s obligations to guarantee freedom of religion under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a signatory. It also called on Iran to put an end to the persecution of the Baha’i community. This follows an earlier EU statement on 12 January, also strongly supported by Ireland, asking that the trial respect international standards. In the event, there was no independent observation of the proceedings and even the defendants’ lawyers, to whom the Baha’i had very limited access during their detention, had some difficulty in obtaining entry. There appears to be no evidence that the seven Baha’i have done anything to incur the displeasure of the Iranian authorities other than practice their faith.
The Government is extremely concerned about this sentencing and other signs of the continued and indeed worsening oppression of the Baha’i minority, including reports of the detention of other Baha’i community members, the denial of education and the violation of property rights. It would appear that the Iranian authorities are persecuting a minority for their religious beliefs and that they are actively trying to suppress that faith. Ireland will continue to call strongly for the immediate release of the seven Baha’i leaders and the end to the persecution of members of this faith in Iran, including through bilateral contacts, with our EU partners and at the UN.