Ten NGOs wrote to the EU authorities expressing deep concern over the case of 32 Iranian Bahá’ís, who were sentenced to a collective 238 years in prison, in essence, for practicing their faith. The NGOs pointed out that it has been the biggest mass arrest of Bahá’ís in Iran in the last decade, and the amount of torture and abuse they have suffered has been extremely severe compared to similar cases. While eight of them have already started serving their long-term imprisonments, the Court of Appeal is due to consider the cases of the other 24 on June 15, 2016. Amongst them are parents whose children will be orphaned if the appeal is rejected.

In separate letters sent to several key EU officials dealing with Iran’s affairs, the NGOs urge them to call on the government of Iran to quash the convictions and sentences against these 32 Bahá’ís and release those in prison immediately.

The mass arrest of Bahá’ís took place in Golestan province from October 2012 to January 2014, by the Ministry of Intelligence, under the supervision of the Judiciary. The detainees were subjected to physical torture, sexual and verbal abuse, and threats against their family members, including false accusations for drug possession and subsequent death sentences.  When one of them protested against this inhumane treatment, she was told by her interrogator that: “any kind of treatment against Bahá’ís is permissible.”

The NGOs demanded the EU officials to urge the government of Iran to carry out a full investigation into the alleged torture and wrongful detention of the 32 Bahá’ís and the unfair trials in which they were charged with ‘propaganda for the Bahá’í faith and against the Islamic Republic, through membership in an illegal organisation,’ and ‘collaboration with hostile states to promote the sectarian, anti-Islam. and anti-Shiite objectives of imperialist states’.

Raising concerns over the outcome of the appeal process, the NGOs stated: “the decisions rendered by the courts in these cases violate the international norms and domestic laws, and criminalise the day to day existence of these private citizens by creating a false narrative that the practice of their faith constitutes an action against Islam and the State.”

For the full text of the letter, click here.