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Lawyers call for release of Baha’i leaders

Lawyers call for release of Baha’i leaders


An open letter calling for the immediate release of seven Baha’i leaders who have been jailed in Iran since 2008 has been signed by 26 prominent Australian lawyers and the Australian Lawyers for Human Rights organisation.

Last week, Hon John Dowd launched the letter at NSW Parliament House, which is addressed to Iran’s ambassador to Australia, and urges Iran to uphold the rule of law and the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which it has ratified.

The signatories of the open letter include 16 Senior Counsel and Queen’s Counsel as well as senior legal academics, human rights specialists and other leading members of the profession (full list below).

Among them is barrister Julian McMahon, who acted for the executed Bali nine ringleaders and was named as the Victorian Australian of the Year 2016.

Hon Catherine Branson QC, Hon Mark Dreyfus QC MP, Julian Burnside AO QC, Bret Walker SC, Noel Hutley SC, Jane Needham and Professor George Williams AO all also put pen to paper.

On 14 May 2008 seven prominent members of Iran’s Baha’i community were arrested and incarcerated in Iran’s infamous Evin prison.

Following 20 months of illegal detention they were put on trial, accused of espionage, propaganda against the Islamic republic and other alleged crimes and were convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison.

In November 2015, their prison term was reduced to 10 years, due to the delayed application of a national penal code adopted in 2013, which states that sentences should be served concurrently instead of consecutively. Under the terms of the new penal code, the seven are also now eligible for conditional release.

The letter notes that the seven had initially been imprisoned without charge and then had a "trial" involving six brief, closed court sessions.

"To this day, they have not been presented with formal charges or a judgement in writing, in clear violation of the Iranian constitution and the most basic requirements of procedural fairness and natural justice," the letter reads.

"Their lawyers were orally advised of their sentencing to 20 years in prison – the longest terms of any prisoners of conscience in Iran – on vague charges for which no evidence has ever been presented."

The co-signatories are:

Hon John Dowd AO QC

Hon Catherine Branson QC

Hon Mark Dreyfus QC MP

Julian Burnside AO QC

Jane Needham SC

Noel Hutley SC

Bret Walker SC

Garry Rich SC

Robert Leonard Crowe SC

Winston Terracini SC

John Stratton SC

Jeremy Gormly SC

Terence Tobin QC

Barry Toomey QC

Peter Wertheim AM

Ian Lacey AM

Dr Sarah Pritchard

Dr Keith Thompson

Prof George Williams AO

Prof Michael Quinlan

Prof Iain T. Benson

Julian McMahon

Philip Lynch

Stephen Freeman

Elaine Pearson

Rodger M.A. Chongwe, S.

Australian Lawyers for Human Rights

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