Persecution vs Prosecution: Is There a Difference? In the Seychelles It Appears Not

The plight of the Baháʼí people is unfortunately not as well-known as some of the other minorities in the region. Originating in Iran, this is the place where the Baháʼí faith has actually been most persecuted considering the way in which their beliefs have been perceived as inconsistent with those of traditional Islam.

Established in 1863 in what was then Persia, followers of the Baháʼí faith have been attacked by some radical Muslims due to the fact that they question the Islamic belief in the status of Muhammad as the final prophet, believing that their own messianic figure, the Imam Mahdi, known by some as the 12th Imam, was indeed a prophet as well.

The status of the Baháʼí has been a precarious one, with members of the community being subjected to widespread arrests, instances of torture, violation of property rights, imprisonments outside the traditional legal system as well as the confiscation of personal property. Overall, the civil rights and liberties of the community has been questioned by a range of autocratic host regimes, among which specifically Iran can be counted but also Egypt as well.

The situation in Iran has been the worst for members of the community, pre-dating the current ongoing protests and the treatment which protesters have been getting from the regime. The early 2000’s saw Iranian security forces arresting young members of the community for activities deemed to be “anti-regime”, including things as basic as holding religious teaching seminars, leading many members to be barred from higher education completely. The Anti-Defamation League went so far as to state that activities against the community are reminiscent of steps taken against Jews in Europe by the Nazis during the Second World War, including seizure of property, defamation in the media, mass arrests and even executions.

In most cases, members of persecuted communities become particularly sensitive to instances where others are being persecuted in a similar fashion, for reasons that are either political or even personal. This appears not to be the case with Steven Powles KC, the attorney on behalf of the government of Seychelles currently overseeing the prosecution of those accused in the case of the $50 million. According to insider sources this man is even serving as the current (temporary) attorney-general for the country.

Interestingly he does seem to have learned from the prosecution of members of his own community, but not in a positive way. Instead, he been making use of some of the tools employed by the autocratic regimes, such as the Islamic Republic, to prosecute local Seychellois in what has come to be known as one of the most high-profile trials the country has ever seen. Aside from the very obvious tool of locking defendants away for months without trial, he has spearheaded the campaign to deny them any and all human rights. This includes visitation rights as well as the delivery of things as basic as medicine and eyeglasses as well as access to adequate sanitary facilities.

The trial itself has been a giant sham, so much so that Mr Powles would make the Ayatollahs of Iran proud, with the case being consistently pushed off and every trick in the book being used to deny defendants access to their legal rights. This includes presenting evidence that the defence was not able to review, strong-arming the court in to denying bail and even, according to extremely concerning allegations, fabricating evidence. Although physical torture has yet to be employed, certainly it’s mental equivalent has been the order of the day for Mr Powles and his cronies, all of this under the watchful eye of President Ramkalawan.

How this trial will play out is yet to be determined although experts have expressed their scepticism as to the ability of defendants to get a fair trial. Members of the Baháʼí community should be ashamed to call this man a member of what is otherwise actually quite a peaceful faith, which actually believes in in the oneness of mankind and peaceful coexistence between man and nature. Mr Powles would do well to return to the basic principles of his faith which may yet inspire him to follow the revered teachings of Baháʼu’lláh.

By Kate Flask

Kate Flask is an American freelance writer and digital nomad who studied creative writing in the UK. She has a personal and professional interest in East Africa and Indian Ocean Islands and Runs Seychelles Watch.

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