Naeim Tavakkoli, an engineer in Ottawa, faces an excruciating week waiting to see just what the fate of his imprisoned father, Behrouz Tavakkoli, will be. Nika Khanjani, a graduate student in Montreal, waits to see what will happen to her uncle, Jamaloddin Khanjani. They will both appear in court in Tehran on 12 June.
Naeim and Nika remember all too well the fate of leading Baha’is in the early days of the Islamic Republic of Iran when more than 200 were executed, solely because of their religion.
Behrouz Tavakkoli and Jamaloddin Khanjani are two of seven Baha’i leaders, imprisoned for more than two years in Iran, now scheduled to appear in Branch 28 of Iran’s Revolutionary Court this Saturday. Incarcerated in small cells, without bedding or furniture, with little access to natural light and fresh air, the seven, arrested solely because of their faith, spent more than 18 months without access to lawyers.
They eventually learned they were charged with espionage, propaganda against the Islamic order, and “corruption on earth”. Finally gaining access to lawyers last year, they again were without legal counsel for a time as Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi’s office was ransacked and she had to leave Iran. The other lawyer was arrested in last June’s upheavals.
They now have lawyers but the question is: Will this, the fourth session, be any less surreal than the first three sessions of the trial, on 12 January, 7 February and 12 April?
At the last session, unidentified, nonjudicial personnel were present, including a government film crew, but no family members were allowed into the court and it was, in every other way, closed to the public, and as far from any international standard of justice as their arrest and incarceration have been. The prisoners, with the agreement of their attorneys, refused to participate in the charade and the session was adjourned.
The court date this week coincides with the first anniversary of last year’s contested presidential election, as well as a global day of action aimed at calling attention to human rights abuses in Iran.
“In the court sessions held so far, no evidence of wrongdoing has been presented. As their lawyers have confirmed, the defendants are completely innocent and are being persecuted solely for their religious belief,” Diane Ala’i, Baha’i Representative to the UN in Geneva has said.
“The Iranian government should know that its actions against these innocent citizens are under scrutiny throughout the world.”
The other five defendants are Fariba Kamalabadi, Atif Naeimi, Saeid Rezaie, Mahvash Sabet and Vahid Tizfahm. Before imprisonment, they looked after the spiritual and social needs of Iran’s Baha’i community. There are currently 38 Baha’is in prison in various cities in Iran.
Contact: Gerald Filson, work: 905-889-8168 cell: 416-587-0632.