state of the 7 baha’i yaran

News about the trial of the 7 Baha’i Yaran (“friends”, often often referred to as the “7 Baha’i leaders” by the media) continues to float in from across the Internet, championed by the Baha’i International Community’s (BIC) World News Service and helped along by reliable and dedicated sources on Twitter.

Diane Ala’i, the BIC’s representative to the United Nations in Geneva, called the trial “highly irregular, very similar to the show trials that have been held in Iran in recent months”, noting that “even the lawyers had to argue their way inside the court—lawyers who in any case had virtually no access to the accused for nearly two years”. A report from the group Human Rights Activists in Iran describes the first session of the trial, held January 12th, 2010:

The first session of the trial of the seven Baha’i leaders in Iran was held in Tehran today. The defendants were arrested over 20 months ago.

In today’s session, the families of the defendants were not allowed to witness the proceedings and their lawyers did not get the opportunity to address the court. The session concluded with the reading of the charges. The prosecutor of this case is an interrogator at the Information Bureau.

The first session was reportedly videotaped by the government. One of the defense attorneys confirmed that the trial will continue. The defense attorneys, however, have not been allowed to review parts of the government’s evidence and have not been allowed to meet with their clients. The charges leveled against the Baha’is over a year ago consisted of spying for foreign governments, acting against the security of the regime, insulting the sacred and “corrupting the earth” which is a charge punishable by death. According to government websites, the defendants have also been charged with collecting classified documents and holding meetings contrary to national security interests.

The website of the “Press Club”, which is a subsidiary of the Islamic Republic’s radio and television, carried a report of the court proceedings a day before trial even started on January 11. This premature report was removed from the website when it caused some embarrassment. This incident showed that the outcome of the trial is preordained and that the reports of the trial proceedings are actually written by government agents prior to the court session.

The court has already discredited these proceedings by blocking the lawyers’ access to the relevant files and preventing them from meeting with the defendants.

Shirin Ebadi, Nobel Peace Prize winner and one of the lawyers defending the Yaran, stated in a Persian-language interview: “If justice is to be carried out and an impartial judge should investigate the charges leveled against my clients, the only verdict that could be reached is that of acquittal,” adding with regret that “Unfortunately, for some time now, the Judiciary has distanced itself from justice.”

World support for the wrongly detained Baha’is poured in on the date of the trial, with representatives from India, Brazil, the European Union, the United States, and the United Kingdom denouncing Iran’s treatment of the Yaran and the fairness of their trial, and calling on it to respect the universal human right of all Iranian Baha’is to freedom of religious practice. Cherie Blair, wife of Tony Blair, ex-prime minister of the United Kingdom, accused the Iranian government of using the Baha’is as scapegoats in recent post-election protests, and claimed that Iran should be “shamed into respecting basic rights of the Baha’is”.

Canada’s Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon called “deplorable” the fact that the Yaran “were detained on the sole basis of their faith and have been denied a fair trial”, in between scathing criticisms of Iran’s refusal to repatriate the body of slain Montreal photojournalist Zahra Kazemi, killed in 2003 while in the custody of interrogators.

Human rights organization Amnesty International denounced what it called a “show trial” based on “spurious charges”, calling the 7 Yaran “prisoners of conscience, held solely on account of their beliefs or peaceful activities on behalf of the persecuted Baha’i community,” and called for them to be “immediately and unconditionally set free”.

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