Canadian Baha'is pleased to learn of Amnesty International urgent appeal regarding Baha'i prisoners in Iran

Amnesty International has issued an “urgent action” appeal on behalf of three young Baha’i prisoners taken into custody in Shiraz, Iran. Canadian Baha’is have been following the fate of these prisoners along with 51 other members of the Baha’i Faith since their arrest last year while participating in a social and economic development project.

The three have been sentenced for what appears to be entirely religious reasons. Amnesty International issued its appeal on 25 January. It calls for human rights activists around the world to write directly to Iranian government officials on behalf of the Baha’i prisoners, asking why they have been detained and calling on authorities not to ill-treat or torture them.

“Haleh Rouhi Jahromi, 29 years old, Raha Sabet Sarvestani 32, and Sasan Taqva, 33, all Baha’is, have been detained by the Ministry of Intelligence in Shiraz since 19 November 2007,” states the appeal, which was posted on Amnesty International’s Web site on 25 January 2008. They have been sentenced to four years in prison.

“Please send appeals to arrive as quickly as possible, in Persian, Arabic, English or your own language,” the appeal advises, “stating that Amnesty International would consider them to be prisoners of conscience if they are detained because of their Baha’i faith… calling for their release if they are not to be charged with a recognizably criminal offence and brought to trial promptly and fairly” and “calling on the authorities not to torture or ill-treat them…”

The three prisoners were part of a group of 54 Baha’is arrested in May 2006 as they participated in a project to educate underprivileged children in Shiraz. Most of the 54 were released after a few days, although Ms. Rouhi, Ms. Sabet and Mr. Taqva were held for about a month. In August 2007, 53 of those arrested were notified by a local court that they were accused of “offenses relating to state security,” according to the appeal.

The Amnesty International appeal follows a call early last week by the US State Department asking Iran to release all Baha’i prisoners.

Diane Ala’i, the representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations in Geneva, said that charges against the three, rather than involving any legitimate concern over “state security” stem entirely from accusations by the court that the Baha’is had been involved in the “indirect teaching” of the Baha’i Faith.

“In fact,” said Ms. Ala’i, “the three individuals were engaged in an effort to help underprivileged children in their city, through a program of training that emphasizes moral virtues.”

The Amnesty International appeal can be read in full at:http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/MDE13/017/2008