September 18, 2017
Contact: James Samimi Farr
Office: (202) 833-8990, Email: USBahaiMedia@usbnc.org
WASHINGTON, D.C.— Mahvash Sabet, one of the seven members of the former leadership group of the Baha’is in Iran who were imprisoned due to religious beliefs, has been released after completing her unjust 10-year prison sentence.
Mrs. Sabet, 64, was the first member of the ad-hoc group – known as “the Yaran”, or the Friends – to be arrested in March 2008. The six others were arrested in May of the same year after an early morning raid in their homes. All seven were held incommunicado for weeks, subjected to solitary confinement, and suffered appalling treatment and deprivations, including psychological and physical hardships.
Some twenty months after being imprisoned without charge, their trial began on 12 January 2010 and ended five months later, on 14 June 2010. Following their first trial, their lawyer and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Ms. Shirin Ebadi, who had hardly one hour’s access to her defendants, explained that she had read the dossier of charges against them and found no proof to sustain their criminal charges.
“I am the head of the legal team representing these seven Baha’is. I have studied their files thoroughly,” said Ms. Ebadi. “There is not a shred of evidence for the charges leveled against them.”
Their arrest and imprisonment prompted an international outcry for their release by the United
Nations (UN), governments and media around the world. In 2010, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Navi Pillay, expressed “deep concern that” their “trials did not meet the requirements of due process and fair trial” and in a 2014 report by the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, he urged “their unconditional release” from prison.
Today, the conclusion of the sentence of Mrs. Sabet takes place against the backdrop of increasing religious discrimination against the Baha’is in Iran.
“Although 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,” said Ms. Bani Dugal, the Principal Representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations in New York.
“Although Mrs. Sabet is being freed from prison, she will still not achieve full freedom,” said Ms. Dugal. “She will return to a society where Baha’i youth are deprived of access to higher education and public jobs, where attacks on small Baha’i-owned shops are increasing, cemeteries are being desecrated, Baha’is are vilified in state sponsored media on a daily basis and where they are arbitrarily arrested and imprisoned for their beliefs.”
“The worldwide Baha’i community, along with vast numbers of people in Iran and throughout the world, eagerly await the conclusion of the unjust sentence of the six other members of the Yaran,” said Ms. Dugal. “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.’”
For more information about religious persecution and the rights of the Baha’is in Iran, please contact the U.S. Baha’i Office of Public Affairs at 202-833-8990, or visit publicaffairs.bahai.us.