NEW YORK--Seven Iranian Baha'i leaders, already unjustly held in Tehran's notorious Evin prison for more than two years, have reportedly been sentenced to long prison terms following a series of court appearances that culminated in a three-day session in June.
As is often the case with Iran's legal system, court papers have not been made public. However, reports indicate that the seven have been sentenced to 10 years in prison.
On 9 August 2010, the seven were transferred to Gohardasht prison in Karaj, outside Tehran, apparently to begin serving their sentences.
Gohardasht prison is known for its overcrowded and unsanitary conditions. Since their transfer from Evin, the seven have suffered from various medical problems as a result.
"Amongst other indignities, they are forced to endure appalling filth, pestilence, exposure to disease, and quarters so crammed that it is difficult for them to lie down or even to perform their daily prayers," said Bani Dugal, the representative of the Rahn International Community to the United Nations. "It is clear from recent reports that their health has deteriorated and they have no access to adequate medical treatments."
More recently, the seven have been transferred within the prison to sections where they are even more crowded, with less access to fresh air. The two women, in particular, have been put into a section where conditions are particularly harsh.
During their trial and since, the seven received numerous expressions of support from the United Nations, governments and human rights organizations around the world. Among other things, governments and others have asked Iranian authorities to immediately release the seven on bail, to prove that their trial was fair, and to stop the religious persecution of Baha's in Iran.
Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi, who is one of the senior members of the legal team for the seven, told the BBC's Persian service in August that she was "stunned" by the lengthy sentence.
"I have read their case file page by page and did not find anything proving the accusations, nor did I find any document that could prove the claims of the prosecutor; said Ms. Ebadi.
UN Secretary General Ban Kimoon specifically mentioned the seven in a report on human rights in Iran that he released in October. Among other things, Mr. Ban's report noted that the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has expressed "deep concern" over the absence of...