Twenty-nine Iranian men were simultaneously hanged in a mass execution at Evin prison on July 27th. The Iranian government claims they were "thugs," convicted of crimes like drug trafficking and murder.
But the rights group headed by Iranian lawyer and Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi said in a statement that "the hanged men were deprived of a fair judicial procedure." The Defenders of Human Rights Centre has also expressed concern over the regime's practice of bringing false criminal charges against those it deems political opponents and denying them their legal rights.
The Iranian people face an ongoing and increasing campaign of intimidation and repression in their own country. Labor leaders are imprisoned; students are arrested and sometimes murdered in government custody; newspapers are shut down and journalists are silenced; cultural rights defenders are condemned to death; women's rights activists are sentenced to prison and to lashings; religious minorities are persecuted.
Members of the Baha'i community, the largest non-Muslim religious group in Iran, recently reported a string of arson attacks targeting homes and cars belonging to Baha'is. The attacks follow the arrest of seven Baha'i leaders in the spring, who now languish in Evin prison.
President George Bush says America stands with those seeking freedom. He says it is the duty of free nations to put pressure on the world's tyrannical governments, like the regime in Iran, and to support those striving for their liberty. In a speech in Washington, D.C., he praised, among others, Manoucher Mohammadi, a former Iranian student activist:
"Both he and his brother were viciously tortured by the Iranian authorities. He was the only one who survived and escaped. Welcome to America."
Mr. Bush says he has a message for all those who suffer from tyranny: "You're not alone. America hears you. Millions of our citizens stand with you, and hope still lives – even in bleak places and in dark moments."