FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 31, 1997
Iranian Court Decisions Could Threaten Christian Converts from Islam
The State Department Spokesman today strongly condemned recent Iranian Supreme Court decisions upholding death sentences imposed on two Iranian Baha'is who had been convicted of apostasy. The two Baha'is, Mr. Musa Talibi and Mr. Zabihullah Mahrami, were convicted in separate trials before Revolutionary Courts in 1995 and 1996 respectively, and have been in prison for several months.
"The United States Government strongly condemns this action and calls on the government of Iran to release these men," declared State Department Spokesman Nicholas Burns in a special statement released today. "We urge the Government of Iran
to free all prisoners of conscience and to ensure freedom of religion and other basic human rights."
"The Iranian Supreme Court's actions are but the latest and most distressing reminder of Iran's continuing campaign to destroy the Baha'i community," declared Firuz Kazemzadeh, spokesman for the 130,000-member American Baha'i community. Since 1980, more than 200 Iranian Baha'is have been executed on account of their religion, and thousands more have been imprisoned. Two other Baha'is face death sentences; they have been in prison since
A confidential Iranian government policy document which was revealed in 1993 calls for a wide range of economic and social pressures to be imposed against Baha'is. With more than 300,000 adherents, Baha'is are Iran's largest religious minority group.
Dr. Kazemzadeh noted that the Court's reaffirmation of the apostasy convictions holds "chilling implications" for Moslems who have converted to Christianity or others who have converted from Islam. They could face possible death sentences if they
should be prosecuted for apostasy.
The State Department appealed twice during the past year for Iran to repudiate the apostasy convictions of the two Baha'is. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Religious Intolerance also called for the Iranian authorities to set aside the death sentences passed on Baha'is. His recommendations were specifically endorsed by the U.N. General Assembly in a resolution adopted in December 1996.