Seven leaders of the Baha’i religious faith in Iran have each been sentenced to 20 years in prison. From the Baha’i World News Service:
The Baha’i International Community has received reports indicating that seven Iranian Baha’i leaders have each received jail sentences of 20 years. The two women and five men have been held in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison since they were arrested in 2008– six of them on 14 May and one of them two months earlier. . . . The prisoners — Fariba Kamalabadi, Jamaloddin Khanjani, Afif Naeimi, Saeid Rezaie, Mahvash Sabet, Behrouz Tavakkoli, and Vahid Tizfahm — were all members of a national-level group that helped see to the minimum needs of Iran’s 300,000-strong Baha’i community, the country’s largest non-Muslim religious minority.
The trial of the seven consisted of six brief court appearances which began on 12 January this year after they had been incarcerated without charge for 20 months, during which time they were allowed barely one hour’s access to their legal counsel. The trial ended on 14 June. The defendants were accused of espionage, propaganda activities against the Islamic order, and the establishment of an illegal administration, among other allegations. All the charges are completely and categorically denied.
Would a White House statement undercut efforts to engage? No. Why doesn’t the White House issue a statement? It’s hard not to conclude that the reason for the White House’s silence is simply that neither President Obama nor Vice President Biden care an iota about human rights in Iran. Neither understands that holding autocracies accountable for human rights abuses ultimately empowers dissent.