Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Savage sentences

The seven Baha’i leaders who had been detained in Tehran’s fearsome Evin prison for 20 months without charge have finally been sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment after they were finally accused of espionage, propaganda against the Islamic order and establishment of an illegal administration.

These convictions were handed down after the defendants were allowed one hour’s consultation with their lawyer, and after several brief court appearances in which no evidence was presented on any of the charges.

The facts are at, and the reaction of Human Rights Watch is at Lets hope there will be demands for the release of the seven from big hitters like Cathy Ashton, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs, and Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his regime may have demonstrated repeatedly that they don’t give a toss for what the rest of the world thinks of their relentless persecution of the Baha’is, but it should be said that using secret trials on false charges to lock up the leaders of a small and harmless minority for a lifetime is gratuitously evil.

PS The Foreign Secretary, the Rt Hon William Hague MP, has issued the following statement:

"I was appalled to hear of the 20 year prison sentence handed out to the seven spiritual leaders of the Bahá’í faith in Iran. This is a shocking example of the Iranian state’s continued discrimination against the Bahá’ís. It is completely unacceptable.

The Iranian judiciary has repeatedly failed to allay international and domestic concerns that these seven men and women are guilty of anything other than practising their faith. It is clear that from arrest to sentencing, the Iranian authorities did not follow even their own due process, let alone the international standards to which Iran is committed. The accused were denied proper access to lawyers, and there is evidence that the trial was neither fair nor transparent.

I call on the Iranian authorities urgently to consider any appeal against this decision, and to cease the harassment of the Bahá’í community. I further call on the Iranian Government to ensure that the rights of all individuals are fully protected, without discrimination, and that it fulfils its obligations to its own citizens as set out in the Iranian constitution."

The news of a 'confession' on TV by Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, almost certainly extracted by torture, has further horrified even Iran's allies such as Brazil. Ms Ashtiani had been held in Tabriz Prison for the previous four years, and had been sentenced to death by stoning for adultery but acquitted of murder before she was paraded on TV, in an obvious attempt to convince the outside world that she deserves the execution which is probably imminent. The regime has never attempted to justify the penalty of stoning to death for adultery, prescribed by one school of Islamic jurisprudence but only carried out in Iran. ( This is an utterly hateful and inhumane law, and there is no authority for it in the Qur'an. In the Sunna there is a story about the stoning of two Jews who were found guilty of adultery, but that was the punishment dictated by the Torah at the time, and perhaps applied to Muslims for the sake of uniformity in Medina. Fortunately, the rest of the world has moved on from the standards of the 7th century, and its time for Iran to follow their example. See Mohamed S El-Awa, Punishment in Islamic Law, American Trust Publications, Indianapolis, 1982

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