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Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation

Baha’i Community Leader Mahvash Sabet Released from Prison

Baha’i community leader Mahvash Sabet has been released from prison after serving a nearly decade-long sentence handed down by Iran’s judiciary in a trial lacking due process guarantees.

Sabet and six other Baha’i leaders were arrested in the spring of 2008. While in judiciary custody, officials subjected them to incommunicado detention, solitary confinement, and psychological and physical abuse. The seven were tried between January and June, 2010, on charges including “spying for Israel,” “insulting [Islamic] sanctities,” and “propaganda against the regime,” which are often leveled against Baha’i Iranians. The proceedings were cause of “deep concern” on the part of the UN Commissioner for Human Rights, who criticized them for “[not meeting] the requirements of due process and fair trial.”

The group’s defense counsel, Noble Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi, was permitted around one hour of direct access to her clients. “I have studied their files thoroughly. There is not a shred of evidence for the charges leveled against them,” Ebadi stated.

Though Sabet’s freedom is welcome news for human rights defenders, general conditions facing Baha’i Iranians – including state-sponsored persecution, forced closings of private businesses, bans from institutions of higher learning, and unjust treatment at the hands of the country’s judicial system – remain dire. Ms. Bani Dugal, the Principal Representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations in New York, remarked that “(a)lthough the news of the release of Ms. Sabet after the completion of her sentence is a welcome development, it does not signal the end of the persecution of the Baha’is in Iran. The reality remains that, after 10 years, Mrs. Sabet is returning to a Baha’i community under increased pressure in many ways. In addition, Mrs. Sabet will naturally be awaiting the release of her six colleagues who continue to be unjustly imprisoned.”

Six other Baha’i community leaders are expected to finish their sentences in the next few months: they comprise Mrs. Fariba Kamalabadi, 55; Mr. Jamalodin Khanjani, 83; Mr. Afif Naeimi, 55; Mr. Saeid Rezai, 59; Mr. Behrooz Tavakkoli, 65; and Mr. Vahid Tizfahm, 43.

“We hope that their release will start a new chapter for the treatment of the Baha’is in Iran and that the government will begin to remove the obstacles in its way to abide by the promise it has made of ‘creating justice for all Iranians equally’” Dugal added.

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