Minister Cannon Expresses Concern over Iran's Continued Detention of Seven Bahá'í Leaders

(No. 129 - May 14, 2009) The Honourable Lawrence Cannon, Minister of Foreign Affairs, today made the following statement marking the anniversary of the arrest and detention last year of six Bahá'í leaders in Iran, who, with another arrested two months earlier, remain in custody:

"On May 14, 2008, Iranian authorities arrested six leaders of the country's Bahá'í community. They had already detained another leader in March. The seven Bahá'ís, Behrouz Tavakkoli, Saeid Rezaie, Fariba Kamalabadi, Vahid Tizfahm, Jamaloddin Khanjani, Afif Naemi, and Mahvash Sabet, have been in prison since their arrests, and there is no sign of an end to their unjustified detention.

"Canada is deeply troubled by the continued imprisonment of these Bahá'í leaders, without charge or legal representation. We believe they are being detained solely because of their faith.

"The Government of Canada calls upon the Iranian authorities to immediately release the seven Bahá'í leaders and to cease the harassment of members of the Bahá'í faith.

"Canada continues to urge Iran to fully respect all of its human rights obligations, both in law and in practice. We remain committed to supporting freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law in Iran."

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A backgrounder follows.

For further information, media representatives may contact:

Natalie Sarafian
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs
613-995-1851

Foreign Affairs Media Relations Office
Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada
613-995-1874

Backgrounder

Iran's Persecution of the Bahá'ís

On May 14, 2008, Iranian authorities arrested six Bahá'ís who coordinated the spiritual and community affairs of the country's 300,000 Bahá'ís. Another had already been arrested in March. A year later, the seven remain in prison, having been subjected to intense interrogation, denied access to legal counsel, and allowed only restricted visits from family.

On February 11, 2009, the Deputy Prosecutor of Iran announced that the seven would soon be brought before the court on charges of "espionage on behalf of Israel," "insult to the sacredness [of Islam]," and "propaganda against the regime." An international outcry ensued and no indictments have yet been issued.

Since 1979, members of the Bahá'í community in Iran have faced systematic discrimination, harassment and intimidation. Attacks on the Bahá'ís have increased in the last several years. In October 2008, the Secretary-General of the United Nations issued a report on human rights in Iran which noted that "reports continue to be received about members of the Bahá'í community being subjected to arbitrary detention, false imprisonment, confiscation and destruction of property, denial of employment and government benefits and denial of access to higher education. A significant increase has been reported in violence targeting Bahá'ís and their homes, shops, farms and cemeteries throughout the country. There have also been several cases involving torture or ill-treatment in custody." In the first four months of 2009, 38 Bahá'ís have been arrested, an increase over previous years.