18 of the country’s leading human rights jurists have today signed a letter to the editor of the Telegraph on the miscarriage of justice during the trial and sentencing of the seven former leaders of the Bahá’í community in Iran. Tried and convicted in 2008 in proceedings that violated Iranian and international law, they are currently serving 20 year prison sentences for their religious beliefs.
Their letter coincides with a seminar held on 11 May 2013 at the Law Society of England and Wales, co-hosted by the Bar Human Rights Committee, on the trial of the seven.
Published in the Telegraph, 8 May 2013.
SIR – Five years ago this month, seven former leaders of the Bahá’í community in Iran were imprisoned for their beliefs. This violated national and international laws as well as shariah norms.
The seven – Mrs Mahvash Sabet,
Mr Behrouz Tavakkoli, Mr Vahid Tizfahm, Mrs Fariba Kamalabadi, Mr Jamaloddin Khanjani, Mr Afif Naeimi and Mr Saeid Rezaie – were arrested following coordinated raids on their homes in 2008. The fatuous nature of their alleged crimes, which included “spreading corruption on earth” and collaboration with the “tyrannical Quds-occupying regime” (Israel), is self-evident.
The charges against them were first heard in the media rather than in court, nine months after their detention. An arrest warrant was issued 10 months after they were arrested. To this day, they have not been presented with formal charges or a judgment in writing, in clear violation of the Iranian constitution.
The seven Bahá’ís were purportedly “tried” in 2010 in proceedings that can be barely described as a “trial”, and were each sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Lawyers brave enough to represent Bahá’ís – including the Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi – have themselves become victims of the Iranian regime and been forced into exile. Others, such as Nasrin Sotoudeh and Abdolfattah Soltani, are now serving prison sentences on similarly spurious allegations.
Iranian authorities often claim to be champions of justice, equality and fairness. It is time for them to honour these principles, release the seven Bahá’í leaders and restore the rule of law in Iran.
Sir Desmond de Silva QC Michael Birnbaum QC Cherie Booth CBE QC Kirsty Brimelow QC Professor John Cooper QC Edward Fitzgerald QC
Dr Nazila Ghanea
Lord Gifford QC
Lord Lester of Herne Hill QC
Lord Macdonald of River Glaven QC Michael Mansfield QC
Professor Rachel Murray
Sir Geoffrey Nice QC
Professor Michael O’Flaherty Professor Javaid Rehman
Geoffrey Robertson QC
Professor Philippe Sands QC Professor Dan Sarooshi