Indians of high public standing have put their names to an open letter by the Baha’is of India against the alleged arbitrary arrest on May 14 of six Baha’i leaders by the Iranian government.
Signatories to the letter include retired Justices Krishna Iyer, J.S. Verma and Rajinder Sachar, former Attorney-General Soli Sorabjee, lawyer Maja Daruwala, social activists Mohini Giri and Swami Agnivesh, former Minorities Commission chairman Tahir Mahmood, Planning Commission member Syeda Hameed, industrialist Arun Bharat Ram and journalists George Verghese and Kuldip Nayar.
The letter says six Baha’i leaders, members of a national coordinating body, which helped address minimum needs of Baha’is in Iran, were arrested. A seventh leader had been arrested in March. Their whereabouts are unknown and no formal charges have been framed against them.
“These arrests are shockingly similar to the abductions and executions of Baha’i leaders in the early 1980s. In August 1980, all nine members of the national Baha’i governing council were arrested and disappeared without a trace. It is certain that they were executed. In December 1981, eight newly elected council members were also executed. Since the Islamic revolution in 1979, more than 200 Baha’is have been executed solely on the basis of their religious beliefs.”
The letter urges the Iran to abide by the international human rights convention it has ratified and to release the detainees. It notes with grave concern the “new draft penal code currently being considered by the Iranian Parliament. Its section five is particularly alarming. It mandates the death penalty for anyone who converts from Islam to another religion (apostasy), a provision which targets Baha’is, Christians, Jews, and other religious groups.”
Repeated attempts to contact officials at the Iranian embassy in New Delhi drew no response.