The Iranian government has sentenced 7 leading members of Iran's Baha'i community to 20 years in prison for purported crimes against national security. The 2 women and 5 men have been imprisoned in Iran since 2008. Amnesty International has condemned the inhumane treatment, unfair judicial proceedings, and egregious sentencing of the 7 Baha'is, whom Amnesty calls "prisoners of conscience jailed solely on account of their beliefs or peaceful activities on behalf of the persecuted Baha'i minority."
State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley also commented on the plight of the 7 Baha'i leaders:
"We... have long-standing concerns about the persecution of minorities inside Iran. It is not a tolerant society. And we are concerned about that particular verdict, but also about other actions that Iran has taken."
On August 10th, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton again called on the Iranian government to release all political prisoners held in Iran. She said in a statement that the U.S. remains "deeply concerned that Iran continues to deny its citizens their civil rights." She cited the case of Sakineh Mohmmadi Ashtiani, the Iranian mother of 2 whose plight garnered international attention when she was sentenced to death by stoning on charges of adultery. Although the stoning sentence was suspended after an international outcry, recent reports indicate that Ms. Ashtiani was pressed to publicly confess under duress, and her fate remains unclear.
Secretary Clinton also mentioned the case of Ebrahim Hamidi, an 18 year-old man facing imminent execution on the charge of homosexuality, despite the fact that he was subject to an unfair judicial process and is currently without legal representation. His lawyer, Mohammad Mostafaei, who was Ms. Ashtiani lawyer as well, fled Iran after he was questioned by authorities and members of his family were arrested.
"We are also concerned about the fate of Iranians who are in danger of imminent execution for exercising their right to free expression after the June 2009 elections, including Jafar Kazemi, Mohammad Haj Aghaei, and Javad Lari," said Secretary of State Clinton. "The United States urges the Iranian Government to halt these executions in accordance with its obligations to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and calls for the immediate release of all political prisoners and imprisoned human rights defenders."
Secretary of State Clinton said that the U.S. "will continue to stand with people around the world who seek to exercise their universal rights and speak out in defense of human liberties."