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House of Commons, Tuesday 30 June 2009

Topical Questions

T1. [282712] Mr. Alistair Carmichael (Orkney and Shetland) (LD): If
he will make a statement on his departmental responsibilities.

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
(David Miliband): I hope that the House will join me in welcoming the
UN Secretary-General’s determination to visit Burma this week. The
political and human rights situation in the country is dire and demands the
world’s attention. Ban Ki-moon’s personal engagement underscores the
concern of the international community. It presents an opportunity for the
military Government to respond to those concerns by releasing

30 Jun 2009 : Column 159Aung San Suu Kyi and all other political
prisoners, and by beginning a credible and inclusive dialogue that leads to
political reconciliation and a new start for Burma.

Mr. Carmichael: I certainly wish to associate myself with the Foreign
Secretary’s remarks, but may I take his attention back to Iran, and in
particular to the situation facing the seven Baha’i spiritual leaders who
have been in detention for more than a year and are apparently to stand
trial on 11 July, whose lawyers are reported to have suffered intimidation,
and who do not yet know the nature or the number of charges against
them? Will the Foreign Secretary bring pressure to bear from this country
and others to ensure that their trial conforms to the principles of natural

David Miliband: The hon. Gentleman raises an important point. We have
long spoken up about the treatment of the Baha’i minority; they were
featured in the Foreign Office’s human rights report, and he is right to
draw attention to the importance of the events on 11 July and beyond.

<matter omitted>

Lembit Öpik (Montgomeryshire) (LD): Regarding the seven Baha’i
leaders detained in Iran, may I ask the Foreign Secretary whether he will
meet me, as the chair of the all-party Baha’i group, and a delegation of
Baha’is, to understand the issues and see what representations might
respectfully be made to secure their release?

David Miliband: I am happy to arrange a ministerial meeting with one of
my colleagues on that important issue.

House of Commons Hansard
House of Commons, Wednesday 1 July 2009


Q7. [283125] Lembit Öpik (Montgomeryshire) (LD): As chair of the all-
party Baha’i group, I have become deeply concerned about the seven
Baha’i leaders in Iran facing trial by the revolutionary court on 11 July on
serious but unsubstantiated charges, with no evidence being offered
against them. Will the Prime Minister be willing to meet me and
representatives of the Baha’i faith in Britain to underline his and, I hope,
our collective support for the fundamental principles of fairness and
tolerance in the treatment of these and all Baha’i in Iran?

The Prime Minister: The hon. Gentleman raises very difficult issues. I
am sure that the whole House will share my deep disappointment at the
recent behaviour of the Iranian regime: disappointment at the manner in
which legitimate demonstrations have been suppressed; disappointment
at the restrictions that he has mentioned on the freedoms of the Iranian
people, with people due to stand before a closed court on 11 July; and
disappointment that the Iranian Government have expelled two of our
diplomats and detained several of our embassy staff. This action is
unjustified and unacceptable. Some people in Iran are seeking to use
Britain as an explanation for the legitimate Iranian voices calling for
greater openness and democracy. However, we will continue, with our
international partners, to raise our concerns with Iran, including on the
issue that the hon. Gentleman raised.

House of Commons Hansard