Prompted by the forthcoming fifth anniversary of the detention of the seven leading members of the Baha’i faith in Iran, Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Markus Löning issued the following statement today (8 May):
“The national leaders of the Iranian Baha’i community have now spent five years in jail. They were all sentenced to 20 years imprisonment in a trial that lacked any transparency and disregarded fundamental rule-of-law principles.
I call upon the Iranian judiciary to quash these unlawful judgements immediately. The seven Baha’i leaders and all other prisoners held because of their religious beliefs must be released without delay.
The persecution of the Baha’i and other religious minorities violates the right to freedom of religion. Iran has pledged to uphold this right by signing the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Iran must now honour that commitment.”
The Baha’i in Iran are denied recognition as a religious community and frequently suffer harassment and systematic intimidation, including arrest and detention.
In the field of education and training as well as labour law they likewise face discrimination. Baha’i children are intimidated and compelled to change school; students are expelled from university or not allowed to matriculate in the first place; the security forces close down shops at random and order community members to appear before disciplinary tribunals. It is often very difficult for Baha’i who have suffered such discrimination and harassment to file an official complaint.
The head of the seven-member national ad-hoc committee that saw to the needs of the Iranian Baha’i community was arrested on 5 March 2008. The remaining six members were arrested on 14 May 2008. They were held without charge for over two years in Tehran’s Evin Prison before being sentenced on 8 August 2010 to 20 years imprisonment each. Following strong international protest, the sentences were reduced to ten years in an appeal hearing on 20 October 2010. However, the prisoners were informed orally on 16 March 2011 that the sentences had again been increased to 20 years.
According to the latest report from Ahmed Shaheed, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, more than 100 Baha’is are currently being held in prisons across the country. Over 250 are awaiting trial.