Saturday, 11 April 2009

Canada's Parliament condemns persecution of Baha'is in Iran

"Whereas, the House of Commons recognizes that on 14 May 2008, six members of an informal group known as the Friends in Iran that oversee the needs of the Baha'i community in Iran were arrested and taken to the political prisoners section of Evin prison in Tehran, where the seventh member was already being held, following her arrest in Mashhad in March 2008.

"And whereas, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in October 2005, uncovered a confidential letter from the Command headquarters of the Armed Forces of Iran ordering the identification and monitoring of all Baha'is and their activities.

"And whereas, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief stated on March 20, 2006, that she 'also expresses her concern that the information gathered as a result of such monitoring will be used as a basis for the increased persecution of and discrimination against, members of the Baha'i Faith, in violation of international standards ... The Special Rapporteur is concerned that his latest development indicates that the situation with regard to religious minorities in Iran is, in fact, deteriorating.'

"And whereas, the Baha'i community of Canada is gravely concerned for the safety of these seven Baha'is, who have been held without formal charges, access to legal counsel or evidence brought against them, and being subjected to harsh treatment and interrogation with very restricted visits from family members for more than nine months."And whereas, Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi - who announced her intention to defend the Baha'is in court - has since been harassed and her offices have been closed.

"And whereas, the Deputy Prosecutor General has announced that these prisoners will be tried by the Revolutionary court on charges of 'espionage on behalf of Israel', 'insult to the sacredness (of Islam)' and 'propaganda against the regime' - all of which are capital offences.
"And whereas, such charges are frequently used by Iranian authorities to target human rights defenders and religious minorities and there is nothing in the history or teachings of the Baha'i community to lend any credence to such charges.

"And whereas, these arrests have taken place in the context of an upsurge of arbitrary arrests, raids on home, expulsion of university students, harassment of school children, destruction of graveyards, virulent attacks in government controlled media.

"Therefore, be it resolved that this House condemns the ongoing persecution of the Baha'i minority of Iran and calls upon the government of Iran to reconsider its charges against the members of the Friends in Iran, and release them immediately or failing this, that it proceed to trial without further delay, ensuring that the proceedings are open and fair and are conducted in the presence of international observers."

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