Trial of Iranian Baha'i Leaders: A No Win Situation for the Islamic Republic

Bijan Masumian

The news coming out of Iran indicates that at some time in the future, the Islamic Republic government intends to put the seven leaders of the Iranian Baha’i community on trial. The group, which includes two women, has been in “temporary” custody for over ten months. The official charges are:

  1. Espionage for the state of Israel: a sentence that could carry the death penalty
  2. Activities against the Islamic regime
  3. Insulting government authorities
{josquote}[The government has] never bothered to explain to an inquiring world what kind of “spy” was an eighty-five-year-old man like ‘Abdu’l-Vahab Kazemi of Yazd who had never set foot outside his village.{/josquote}

More than likely, the trial will be conducted behind closed doors, so neutral observers will not be able to watch the Iranian judicial system make a mockery of justice.  Ironically, the cost of taking the Baha’i leaders through a show trial would be quite high for the government.  Global coverage of news having to do with the persecution of Baha’is has been on a steady rise in the past few years.  In the process, increasing numbers of Iranian groups and media outlets have risen to the defense of Iran’s largest religious minority.  The highly publicized open letter of apology recently issued by a group of Iranian professionals that included political activists, poets, musicians, actors, and others was a clear indication of the increasing cost the regime will have to incur if it continues to disregard public opinion and carry on repressive measures against its largest religious minority.  Even inside Iran, certain members of the clerical establishment as well as Iranian students and university professors have demanded justice for the Bahá’ís in public seminars.

While the likely scenario of a closed-door trial for the Baha’i leaders has its cost, the alternative would come at a much higher cost: allowing the internationally known and respected Noble Laureate, Shirin Ebadi, to publicly grill the Islamic Revolutionary Court and an Islamic judge who has little to no experience in contemporary legal proceedings, who would thus prove no match for Ebadi’s expert defense.

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