Thursday, 19 February 2009

Deep concerned about Iran trial of Baha'i members

London – 16 February 2009

Britain voiced concern on Monday at the imminent trial in Iran of seven members of the Baha'i faith who are accused of spying for Israel and could face the death penalty.

"I am very concerned at news that seven leading members of the Iranian Baha'i community ... have been charged with spying for Israel, 'insulting religious sanctities' and 'propaganda against the Islamic Republic'," Foreign Office Minister Bill Rammell said in a statement.

"It is hard not to conclude that these people are being held solely on account of their religious beliefs or their peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression and association."

Baha'is believe in the spiritual unity of all mankind and regard their faith's 19th-century founder as the latest in a line of prophets including Abraham, Moses, Buddha, Jesus and Mohammad.

Iran's Shi'ite religious establishment considers the religion an heretical offshoot of Islam.

Rammell said the seven, who were detained in March or May 2008, had to wait more than eight months to be told of the charges against them.

They had not been given access to their lawyer and their lawyer has not been given access to their case files, he said.

Noting the European Union had called several times for the immediate release of the seven, he said the Iranian government must at the very least ensure that their trial was fair, transparent and open to independent observers.

Rammell said there had been a serious deterioration in Iran's human rights environment in the past few years, including a worsening crackdown on human rights defenders and a sharp increase in the use of the death penalty.

Source: International Herald Tribune

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