[PROVISIONAL TRANSLATION FROM PERSIAN]
[Translator’s notes appear in square brackets]
[Personal information has been redacted.]
Farvardin 1360 [March/April 1981]
Press Statement of the Baha’i Community of Iran
Repetition of oppression and darkness of history
Nearly a century ago, in 1894, in France, a young officer of Jewish descent named Alfred Dreyfus was convicted of treason and espionage for the German government and was sentenced and exiled to imprisonment with hard labour on Devil’s Island, near the French colony of Guyana. In reality, the anti-Semitic prejudice which was prevalent in France at that time was unfairly used against Dreyfus in that conviction, [and] he was punished for a crime he had not committed.
In 1896, Dreyfus’ military commander, by the name of Picquart, charged a Hungarian officer named Esterhazy, who had become a citizen of France, [with the crime], but that officer was acquitted.
The Dreyfus family, a faction of the press, and a group of politicians pursued the case to demand justice; for example, when the well-known French writer Emile Zola reopened the case in a letter titled “I accuse”, addressed to the president in the 13 January 1898 issue of the newspaper L’Aurore, and exposed the conspiracy of anti-Semitic sentiments and Dreyfus’s innocence, a tumult of activities for and against Dreyfus pervaded France in all sorts of ways. The head of the court, Lieutenant Colonel Henry, committed suicide [and] the war minister Kavaniak resigned during the appeals process in the 1899 trial. Dreyfus was convicted in this trial under harsh circumstances, was then pardoned and finally, in 1906, the judgment made by the court of City of Rennes was overturned by a higher court. The innocent officer was reinstated, rejoined the army, was promoted and was honoured with the Legion of Honour order of merit of the country. It is unfortunate that it was finally found out in 1930 that the main culprit had been the same Hungarian, turned French Captain Esterhazy.
During the months of Khordad, Tir and Mordad 1359 [May-August 1980], fourteen Baha’is in Yazd were arrested and imprisoned by order of the Islamic Revolutionary Court. During several months of imprisonment, the charges against them for participation in conspiracy against the Islamic Republic were solely based on the feelings and statements of the Sharia judge and the Islamic Revolutionary Court of Yazd, and despite the constant and persistent protests of the accused to prove their innocence from any misconduct or crime, and their assertion and declaration that the principles of the Baha’i Faith completely prohibit them and all the Baha’is throughout the world from interfering in political affairs and power struggles, no one ever paid attention to their defences.
The Islamic Revolutionary Court of Yazd never presented credible documents or evidence to prove their guilt, and even though the court officials and other people in charge who were involved in the publication and dissemination of those false accusations were repeatedly asked to provide acceptable evidence and documentation to prove their claim, or any evidence of wrongdoing by these individuals, and to present it to the public, they avoided giving a response and only referred to and cited a letter that had been published in the mass media in the early days of Shahrivar 1359 [late August/early September 1980], according to which the Isfahan Episcopal Circle had been accused of relations with U.S. officials and receiving US$500,000,000 and 300 kilograms of explosives. Based on that letter, they stated that this amount and the explosives were to be distributed among different groups, including the Baha’is.
In an interview with Kayhan Newspaper, in issue number 11099, dated 31 Shahrivar 1359 [22 September 1980], even the Sharia judge and the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Court of Yazd referred to the above-mentioned letter again, to justify the verdict which was contrary to the justice of an open court, and stated, “In this regard, an amount of approximately 500,000,000 dollars has been allocated from Israel and the United States, so that the Baha’is can carry out activities in Iran, documentation of which is available.”
Unfortunately, the same people who reflected the letter with big headlines in the newspaper pages and in the TV screen, and, as the official in charge and deputy of the Ministry of National Guidance or the head of the Revolutionary Guards, confirmed and reinforced this rumour and did not contemplate the horrific consequences of their false and malicious words and actions, refrained from accepting the slightest explanation from the Baha’i community, and did not publish a word of what the Baha’is said in refuting this unfounded accusation. Suddenly, in the morning of 17 Shahrivar 1359 [8 September 1980], the radio [station] of the Islamic Republic of Iran announced that at dawn that day, seven Baha’i men, [who] had been sentenced to death by the Islamic Revolutionary Court of Yazd for espionage and treason against the Muslim nation of Iran, had been executed by a firing squad in Yazd. On that occasion, the Islamic Revolutionary Court of Yazd issued a statement that was published in the press, along with photos of the condemned, and, for example, the Kayhan Newspaper in its 11089 issue on Tuesday, 18 Shahrivar 1359 [9 September 1980], wrote the following in a big headline: “Seven Spies Were Executed by a Firing Squad in Yazd”.
The announcement by the Islamic Revolutionary Court was detailed, exaggerated and full of words expressing prejudiced feelings and exaggerated phrases, but devoid of any spirituality or righteousness. Any fair and intelligent reader of that statement would inevitably express sorrow and regret as to how the standards of justice and fairness and moral and human principles are forgotten and neglected…
Nearly six months after this tragic account of the utter meekness and absolute innocence of this group of Baha’is in Yazd, during which time and after this unjust verdict, no government official or newspaper inquired about their condition or demanded justice for [them], in an interview with the Islamic Republic TV and published in the press, in response to questions from a TV reporter about the release of three British members of the Episcopal Church from prison and their acquittal, the public prosecutor general of the Islamic Republic of Iran stated that, in fact, the letter which was mentioned above had been completely fabricated and its forger had also been identified.
Is this an indication of the solid procedure and the ponderous methodology which every court should adopt in the work of the Judiciary on the basis of fairness, honesty and moral scrupulousness to investigate issues and cases and make judgments on individuals and communities?
If that is the case, the authorities did not try to eliminate or prevent the future reprehensible consequences of these baseless and false accusations. Less than seven months later, a similar incident was repeated, the title reappeared in Shiraz, and two imprisoned Baha’is in that city were inflicted with bullets of oppression on 25 Esfand 1359 [16 March 1981].
Should it not be expected that the authorities, after clarification of this matter, would try to adjudicate and diligently plan not to repeat such atrocities, and should the pens of noble writers not condemn the oppressions in such cases?