Monday, January 11, 2010

State Department Condemns Religious Persecution In Iran

The 7 charged Bahai'i leaders 
The 7 charged Baha'i leaders

The United States State Department is condemning the Iranian government’s decision to try seven leaders of Iran's Baha'i community on espionage charges.

The seven have been held for more than 20 months by officials who have yet to publicly produce any evidence against them. The Baha'i leaders have also been afforded only the most minimal access to lawyers, the State Department says.

Reportedly, there are nearly 50 members of the Baha'i faith in custody in Iran, held, the State Department says, solely on the basis of their religious beliefs. The United States government holds that the Iranian government is responsible for their safety while in prison.

In a statement, the State Department argues that all of those held because of their religious beliefs are entitled to due process. The right to a fair and public hearing is embodied, State says, in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Iran's constitution also provides the right to legal representation in criminal cases, as does the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a party.

"We are deeply concerned about Iran's ongoing persecution of Baha'is and treatment of other members of religious minorities who continue to be targeted solely on the basis of their beliefs," the statement reads.

"We join the international community in urging the Iranian authorities to release all religious minorities who are currently in detention for peacefully exercising their human rights and fundamental freedoms."

"The Baha'i community in Iran has all too often been subjected to campaigns of vilification and false charges devised to deflect the attention of a disquieted population onto the Baha'is and away from those in power," said Diane Ala'i, the Baha'i International Community representative to the United Nations in Geneva. "And now, in these days leading to the trial, there are signs that once again the Baha'is are being made scapegoats.

"Rather than accepting responsibility for the turmoil in the country, the Iranian government seeks to lay the blame on others, including foreign powers, international organizations and media outlets, students, women and terrorists. Now the Baha'is have been added to this long list of alleged culprits," she said.

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