Baha'is Threatened with Execution in Iran
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL URGENT ACTION BULLETIN
Electronic distribution authorised
This bulletin expires: 20 March 1997.
EXTERNAL AI Index: MDE 13/07/97
30 January 1997
UA 33/97 Prisoners of conscience / Death penalty
IRAN Dhabihullah Mahrami
Amnesty International is extremely concerned that Dhabihullah Mahrami and
Musa Talibi may be at risk of imminent execution following reports of the
confirmation of their death sentences by the Supreme Court.
Dhabihullah Mahrami and Musa Talibi are both Baha'is, a religious minority
which is not recognised in Iran, and have been sentenced to death for
apostasy. Both are accused of having converted to Islam in the past and
then having reverted to the Baha'i religion.
Dhabihullah Mahrami was sentenced to death in January 1996 by a
Revolutionary Court in Yazd, central Iran. The death sentence was later
overturned by the Supreme Court for reasons which were said to include the
lack of competency of the Revolutionary Court to try this case, which was
referred back to a lower court for reconsideration. Although Amnesty
International has not received details of when his retrial took place,
recent reports indicate that Dhabihullah Mahrami has been informed orally
that his death sentence has been confirmed by the Supreme Court.
Musa Talibi was arrested in June 1994 in Esfahan. In October 1994 he was
sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment on unknown charges, which may have
related to his religious beliefs or activities. This sentence was later
confirmed, but following an appeal, he was retried in February 1995 and
was sentenced to 18 months' imprisonment from the date of his arrest.
However, according to reports, the prosecution objected to his lighter
sentence, apparently on the grounds that Musa Talibi was an apostate and
that this had not been taken into consideration. At a further trial in
July 1996, Musa Talibi was sentenced to death. His lawyer appealed against
this sentence, but recent reports indicate that he too was informed orally
that his death sentence has been confirmed.
Amnesty International believes both men are prisoners of conscience,
currently held solely on account of their religious beliefs. It is calling
for the death sentences against them to be lifted and for them to be
released immediately and unconditionally.
Although apostasy is not a crime under the Iranian Penal Code, people who
convert to Islam from other religions, and then reconvert (classed as
'national apostates' by the late leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran,
Ayatollah Khomeini), can face trial and execution. Ayatollah Khomeini in
his writings defined the punishment for 'national apostasy' as execution,
if the person refuses to repent. The judicial system in Iran considers
religious edicts, particularly those of eminent religious jurists such as
Ayatollah Khomeini, to be a parallel source of law to acts of Parliament.
Freedom to hold or adopt the religion of one's choice is provided for by
Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
(ICCPR), to which Iran is a State Party. The UN Human Rights Committee
(the expert body charged with interpreting the ICCPR), in July 1993
expressly recognized that this article entails the right to replace one's
current religion with another, and that it bars coercion which would
impair this right, including the threat of physical force or penal
Baha'is in Iran suffer systematic harassment and persecution. At least
201 have been executed, most during the 1980s and apparently in
connection with their religious beliefs or activities. Two other Baha'is,
Kayvan Khalajabadi and Bihnam
Mithaqi, are currently on death row in Iran.
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©Copyright 1997, Amnesty International