(iran.bahai.us, 31 March 2011) oea — Iran’s judiciary system has re-imposed a 20-year sentence on the seven Baha’i leaders currently confined in the perilous Gohardasht Prison. The Baha’i International Community confirmed the move on Mar. 29. Read more.
In response, the U.S. Department of State was swift to reiterate its concern over the situation of the Iranian Baha’is on Mar. 31:
The United States remains concerned with the Iranian government’s continued persecution of Baha’is and other religious minority communities in Iran. We are deeply troubled about reports coming out of Iran that the 20-year sentence of the seven Baha’i leaders was reinstated on appeal by the Prosecutor General, a man the United States recently imposed economic sanctions and a travel ban on for committing serious rights violations. We condemn this unprecedented step as a violation of Iran’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. View statement. [or view pdf here]
Director of External Affairs for the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the U.S., Anthony Vance, said he was pleased with the U.S. government’s urgency and constancy in voicing its support for the beleaguered Baha’i community in Iran.
“It sends a strong message to Iran’s leaders that their misdeeds have the unwavering and undivided attention of the world’s governments,” Vance said.
Members of the U.S. House of Representatives also made a forceful statement demanding justice for the seven imprisoned Baha’i leaders. Congressmen John Olver and Frank Wolf sent on Mar. 30 a letter to Secretary Clinton, urging her to take action and continue to speak out against Iran’s mistreatment of Baha’is. The letter had signatures from 41 representatives, including the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.
In their letter, the representatives expressed hope that Secretary Clinton would persist in her support of the Baha’is through words and deeds:
“The arrest and imprisonment of these seven leaders is part of a long history of persecution of the Baha’is in Iran. We urge you to continue to speak out against this persecution and to advocate for the release of those who have been wrongfully imprisoned.”
The Iranian regime also continues to be closely scrutinized by the international human rights community.
Amnesty International expressed outrage at the sentence reversal and reiterated its call for the seven prisoners’ full release. Read full article.
“Yet again, the Iranian authorities are manipulating their own justice system to persecute members of a religious minority,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s director for the Middle East and North Africa.
“Instead of doubling their sentences, the authorities should be setting the Baha’i leaders free, right now, and guaranteeing their freedom to practice their religion free from threat or persecution.”
Smart called the Iranian judiciary’s move “arbitrary” and “vindictive” and cited it as evidence of why the UN Human Rights Council voted recently to create a Special Rapporteur on Iran. He added: “The Council’s decision came not a moment too soon.”
Human Rights Officer for the National Assembly of the Baha’is of the U.S., Shastri Purushotma, said he agreed.
“We’re so glad,” Purushotma said, “that as the Iranian government proves how utterly deficient it is in living up to international standards of human rights, the U.S. and global community are willing and able to step in and come to the aid of these seven individuals and the entire Baha’i community they have come to symbolize.”