Eighth year anniversary of imprisonment of seven Iranian Baha'í leaders observed as new EU Special Envoy appointed

Eighth year anniversary of imprisonment of seven Iranian Baha'í leaders observed as new EU Special Envoy appointed

Brussels—13 May 2016

Eight years ago, seven Iranian Baha'i leaders were sentenced to prison on utterly false and concocted charges and imprisoned solely because of their beliefs. In light of the gross violation of their rights, the rights of the whole of the Baha'i community in Iran, as well as those of numerous other religious and belief groups in the world, the Baha'i International Community warmly welcomes the appointment of Mr Ján Figeľ as the first Special Envoy for the promotion of freedom of religion or belief outside the European Union.

The imprisonment of the seven Baha'i leaders violates not only international law but also Iran’s own domestic law. Before their trial in June 2010, they were charged without due process of law, deprived of proper access to legal counsel, and refused the opportunity to apply for bail – rights to which they were entitled under national legal codes. Their trial was marked by further violations, including a lack of evidence, gross expressions of prejudice by the court, and closure to the public.

Under the terms of a new national penal code, passed in 2013, the seven leaders have served more than enough time to qualify for conditional release, something to which they became entitled to many months ago, and which is regularly being granted to other prisoners. Given that their release under Iranian law should be immediate, the eighth anniversary of their imprisonment this week is being marked with a global campaign entitled “Enough! Release the Baha’i seven.” The commemoration of the seventh anniversary of their imprisonment saw five Members of the European Parliament call for their release in short video statements.

The Baha'i International Community wrote a letter to Mr Figeľ this week to congratulate him on his new appointment and share with him its view that the duty to uphold the freedom of religion or belief rests not only with states but also with religious leaders, who bear a special responsibility to inspire communities to cultivate moral qualities such as forgiveness and understanding.

The Baha'i Faith is the largest non-Muslim religious minority in Iran. Baha'is are routinely arrested, assaulted, barred from employment in a wide range of occupations, including all jobs in the public sector, and denied access to university education – all solely on account of their religious beliefs. The European Union in a 14 March 2016 statement addressed to the 31st session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, expressed “serious concern at the situation of religious minorities in Iran, in particular the continuous systematic discrimination of persons belonging to the Baha'i community.”