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Baha’is Call For Release of All Prisoners of Conscience in Iran
Last night, at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, DC, the Baha’i International Community launched its “Five Years Too Many” campaign, calling for the immediate release of the seven Baha’i leaders known as the Yaran and all prisoners of conscience in Iran. This global campaign will run from May 5 to 15, 2013.
The program featured impassioned remarks from Dr. Katrina Lantos-Swett, Chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom; Rainn Wilson, Baha’i human rights activist and Hollywood actor/director; Roxana Saberi, journalist, author, and human rights activist; and Kenneth E. Bowers, Secretary of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States.
“The trumped up security-related charges against the seven are typical of those directed by the regime against anyone who holds different views than its own,”
said Anthony Vance, Director of Public Affairs for the U.S. Baha’is.
“But, the sentences of 20 years are unprecedented in their length for current prisoners of conscience.”
Six of the seven Baha’i leaders – Mrs. Fariba Kamalabadi, Mr. Jamaloddin Khanjani, Mr. Afif Naeimi, Mr. Saeid Rezaie, Mr. Behrouz Tavakkoli, and Mr. Vahid Tizfahm – were arrested on May 14, 2008 in a series of early morning raids. The seventh, Mrs. Mahvash Sabet, had been detained two months earlier on March 5, 2008.
During their first year in detention, the seven were held in solitary confinement for the first four months, not told of the charges against them, and denied meaningful access to their lawyers. Eventually, they were formally charged with espionage, propaganda activities against the Islamic order, the establishment of an illegal administration, cooperation with Israel, sending secret documents outside the country, acting against the security of the country, and corruption on earth. They are innocent of all the charges. In fact, they attended to the basic spiritual needs of the Baha’is of Iran such as marriages, divorces, and the spiritual education of Baha’i children and youth.
Their trial was conducted over a series of six brief, closed-door sessions in 2010. Though their lawyer, Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi, stated that there was no evidence to sustain the charges against them, they were ultimately sentenced to twenty years in prison.
Currently, these seven Baha’i leaders endure harsh conditions in two of Iran’s most notorious prisons. The five men are incarcerated at Gohardasht prison in Karaj, a facility known for its overcrowding, lack of sanitation, and dangerous environment. The two women remain at Tehran’s infamous Evin Prison. This severity reflects the Government’s resolve to oppress completely the Iranian Baha’i community, which faces a systematic, “cradle-to-grave” persecution that is among the most serious examples of state-sponsored religious persecution in the world today. For more information, visit iran.bahai.us.