OTTAWA, July 23 (UPI) _ Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy has condemned the execution in Iran of a member of the Bahá'í faith and has moved to save the lives of three others reportedly facing execution.
The Foreign Affairs Department said today Axworthy's reaction came after he learned that Iranian authorities executed 52-year-old Ruhollah Rowhani on Tuesday in Mashad, 500 miles (800 km) east of Tehran.
Rowhani, a medical supplies salesman and father of four, was condemned to death on charges of converting a Muslim woman to the Bahá'í faith. He denied the charge, and the woman said she had been brought up as a Bahá'í.
Axworthy said in a statement, "This brutal action is a grave disappointment." He said Western governments had "seen the beginnings of positive cultural and social change in Iran" and had hoped for continuing progress.
Gerald Filson, a spokesman for the Bahá'í Community of Canada, said three other Bahá'ís are sentenced to death and are imprisoned in Mashad.
He identified them as Ataollah Hamid Nasirazadi, Sirus Dhabihi Muqaddam and Hedayat Kashifi Najafabadi.
Axworthy has called on Iran's spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and President Mohammed Khatemi to state that the execution was done without their knowledge and to guarantee the safety of the three other men.
Filson told United Press International the death sentences on Rowhani and the three others were passed by an Islamic court in Mashad and went to the Supreme Court in Tehran for confirmation. He said the Supreme Court declined to confirm the sentences, as the four men's trial had been conducted without defense lawyers present. He said the Mashad religious court then appointed a lawyer to defend them, but they rejected him after he made false statements to the court on their behalf.
Copyright 1998 by United Press International.