[PROVISIONAL TRANSLATION FROM Persian]
[Translator’s notes appear in square brackets.]
[Personal information has been redacted.]
[The excerpt below is from the section of the article that pertains to the Baha’i Faith]
[Adopted from website] Radio Farda
[Date:] 13 Farvardin 1390 [ 2 April 2011]
The European Union’s top diplomat, Catherine Ashton, expressed her concerns on Friday over Iran’s report about doubling the prison terms of seven Baha’i leaders in Iran, and demanded their freedom.
Meanwhile, no official in the Islamic Republic’s judiciary has yet commented on the exact verdict on the Baha’i leaders.
According to Agence France-Presse [AFP], Ms. Ashton said in her statement, “I am concerned to hear that the original 20-year prison sentence for seven former Baha’i leaders may be reaffirmed.” She added, “I urge the Iranian authorities to immediately release the seven Baha’i leaders. The ruling for their imprisonment was apparently motivated by their belonging to a religious minority. They must end the persecution of religious minorities in Iran.
Seven leaders of the Baha’i community in Iran, who have been in prison for the past two and a half years, were initially sentenced to 20 years in prison by a lower court, but the appeals court dropped the charges of espionage and collaboration with the Israeli government, and reduced the sentence to ten years, but Amnesty International announced on Thursday that the Iranian judiciary had upheld the initial sentence of 20 years in prison for the seven by changing the ruling of the appeal court.
Fariba Kamalabadi, Jamaloddin Khanjani, Afif Naimi, Saeed Rezaei, Mahvash Sabet, Behrouz Tavakoli and Vahid Tizfahm are seven leaders of the Baha’i community in Iran who have been in prison for about two and a half years.
In her statement on Friday, Catherine Ashton added, “I call on the Iranian authorities to determine the judicial status of these seven people.” She continued, “These individuals and their attorneys should be given the necessary access to all the documents related to their case.”
On Thursday, Mark Toner, the deputy spokesperson for the United States Department of State, also “deeply” regretted the increase in the prison sentence of the Baha’i leaders of Iran to 20 years and condemned it. Mark Toner called the move, “unprecedented” and a “violation of the Convention on Civil and Political Rights”.
In this regard, Amnesty International has called the confirmation of a 20-year prison sentence for Baha’i leaders a “cruel” act. Malcom Smart, the director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa [Office] said, “Once again, Iranian authorities are interfering in the judiciary to prosecute members of a religious minority.” He also called the increase in the prison sentences of these Baha’i leaders a “vindictive” act against the Baha’i minority.
Baha’is in the Islamic Republic of Iran are denied the right to higher education and employment in the government agencies, and their religion is not recognized by the Iranian government.
Baha’is believe that Baha‘u’llah, who was born in 1817, is the last prophet sent by God, and [they] believe in the spiritual unity of all religions and human beings.
According to Baha’i leaders, 47 followers of the religion in Iran are currently imprisoned “solely for their belief in the Baha’i faith.”