It is easy to forget that we are closing in on almost 2 years of incarceration for the 7 members of the national administrative body of the Baha’is of Iran. In Persian, the body is known as the Yaran (or Friends):
Since their arrest, they have been in legal limbo. The Iranian authorities are pressured on one side to present and argue a case so that they can be found guilty but on the other hand the international community and NGOs like Amnesty International are demanding a fair and open trial.
The result has been a bureaucratic gridlock that has produced and ignored countless trial dates. I wouldn’t be surprised if this was the strategy adopted by the Iranian regime. After all, if the IRI can basically detain prisoners indefinitely without really bringing any charges or afford them the opportunity to defend themselves in a transparent court of law, they’ve more or less accomplished their goal.
Now it seems the strategy has shifted after almost two years. On April 12th the IRI finally went ahead with a trial. Here is an official update from the Baha’i International Community:
Two members of the legal team, Mrs. Mahnaz Parakand and Mr. Hadi Ismailzadeh, were able to be present at the session. Their two other colleagues, Mrs. Shirin Ebadi and Mr. Abolfattah Soltani, were unable to attend.
The hearing was scheduled to begin at 9:30 AM, yet notwithstanding that the lawyers were present at precisely the specified time, the session commenced only two and a half hours later. The families of the defendants were not permitted entry to the proceedings, which clearly signaled that the session was to be closed. However, numerous officials and interrogators from the Ministry of Intelligence were present, including a film crew whose cameras were positioned in the courtroom, which understandably gave rise to questions and concerns about the intentions behind the presence of such individuals in a closed hearing.
In view of the foregoing circumstances, the prisoners, with the full agreement of their attorneys, indicated to the judge that they declined to be party to the proceedings. The judge then adjourned the session. No date was announced for the next hearing.
So the gridlock continues. But the IRI can now claim a victory on the grounds that they were ready to move forward but their attempt was rejected by the Baha’is.
I’m not sure why exactly the Baha’is decided to not to proceed. Having government officials (interrogators, intelligence, etc.) included in the proceedings is part and parcel for the IRI’s case so it is natural that they would be included.
As well, what is wrong with having a camera record the proceedings? It is actually a step in the right direction, isn’t it? And how else would you be able to record the proceedings unless you have staff manning the audio/visuals? And why do they believe that this was a closed hearing if there was no actual ruling on this?
I’m not an Iranian or international legal expert but simply excluding family members (who are unrelated to the case) isn’t necessarily out of order nor unheard of. As long as the defendants have proper representation and are able to call witnesses, present evidence, etc. why would having their families there and not being filmed be so crucial that they would “walk out”?
Maybe I’m missing something but the strategy of the Baha’is and their lawyers is baffling and ultimately may end up hurting them.