Decade of unjust imprisonment ends for Mahvash Sabet
Auckland, New Zealand (Sunday 24 September 2017)
News of the release from prison of 64-year-old Mrs Mahvash Sabet, one of the seven Iranian Baha'i leaders arrested in
2008, has given the New Zealand Baha'i community hope that it may signal a new chapter in the treatment of Baha'is in
Iran. “Mrs Sabet was arrested for her religious beliefs and subjected to an unjust 10-year prison sentence,” says
spokesperson for the NZ Baha'i Community, Mr Paddy Payne. “Our hope is that the government will now begin to uphold the
promise it has made of creating justice for all Iranians equally.”
Mrs Sabet was the first member of a group known as the Yaran – or the Friends – to be arrested. Six others were arrested
in May 2008 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,” said Mr Payne.
Some 20 months after being imprisoned without charge, their trial began in January 2010 and ended five months later
after six brief sessions, characterised by their lack of due legal process.
Following the 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 levelled against them.”
Their arrest and imprisonment prompted an international outcry for their release by the United Nations, governments and
worldwide media, which was ignored by the Iranian authorities.
“The trial and treatment of the group reflects the treatment of the entire Baha’i community in Iran,” said Mr Payne.
“Over some 40 years, more than 220 Baha’is have been killed, hundreds imprisoned, and an entire community has been
categorically excluded from public jobs and university education.”