In an interview with the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, Naim Sobhani, son of Riaz Sobhani, an Iranian Baha’i imprisoned at Evin Prison for the past four months on the charge of providing financial assistance to the Baha’i University in Iran, spoke about his father’s case. Naim Sobhani told the Campaign that following his father’s arrest, his bank accounts have been blocked. According to his son, at his 1 October trial, Riaz Sobhani accepted the charge of providing financial assistance to the Baha’i University. “I did not commit a crime. I just helped the young students who are not permitted to get an education by the government,” Riaz Sobhani told the court.
“About four months ago, forces appeared at my father’s house without a warrant. They ransacked his home and eventually took my father, along with all the computers in the house. We did not have any news of him for about three weeks. During this time, when my mother and my brothers who live in Iran went to Evin Prison, prison authorities told them he was not there. Finally, after three weeks, he was able to call home and say that he was alive and at Evin Prison. He spent the fist two months in solitary confinement. He is 68 years old, and has never been politically active,” said Naim Sobhani.
Riaz Sobhani’s first lawyer, Abdolfattah Soltani, was arrested shortly after accepting his case, and his family was forced to choose other lawyers for him. “His lawyer told my family that this was not the first time he had seen such a trial, as Baha’is are usually accused of unsubstantiated crimes, such as being spies for Israel and the United States. But, thank God, my father’s charge was the same as what he had been told on the day of his arrest, which was ‘helping the Baha’i University.’ Because the charge was true, my father said, ‘Yes, I have done this. I have not committed a crime. I have not done anything against the law, either. And it had nothing to do with politics, either. You do not allow young Bahai’s to attend universities. I have only helped them study. In that regard, you don’t even recognize this university’s diploma. They are happy just to be studying,” said Naim Sobhani.
“After visiting him in prison, my family said he has become very thin. Who knows what he has been through? My father is 68 years old. He has a heart condition, his eyes are weak, and he has stomach problems. My mother said his teeth are showing through his face. I don’t know whether he’s been tortured physically or mentally. What could have happened to him for him to have lost so much weight? He can’t last for long in prison at his age and with his illnesses,” he continued.
Riaz Sobhani was one of the main activists in Tehran’s Baha’i spiritual assembly who, along with a few other members, was helping the Tehran Baha’i community. This assembly was closed two years ago when seven leaders of the Baha’i community were arrested and were each sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Naim Sobhani also spoke about the activities of the Baha’i spiritual assembly. “Their activities only focused on the internal affairs of the Baha’i community, such as if a Baha’i had a financial problem, or a family problem, or any other kind of problem, they would tend to it. Because Baha’i’s do not have civil rights, their only refuge was this assembly, which always cared for them and provided them with assistance with mental support, educational needs, financial aid, etc … My father was active in that assembly up until two years ago when it was closed down by government order.”
“Right now, even before a ruling has been issued for my father, all his bank accounts have been frozen. What do his personal finances have to do with his being imprisoned? This is really unacceptable,” said Naim Sobhani.
“I am really afraid to talk. I am afraid my sister, mother, and the rest would be arrested, too. Baha’is are the biggest religious minority in Iran, but we are not considered and recognized as human beings,” he added.