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IRAN: Court sentences leaders of Bahai faith to 20 years in prison

August 11, 2010 | 12:42 pm

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Seven leaders of the Bahai community in Iran were sentenced to 20 years in prison on charges of spying for foreign nations, cooperation with Israel and undermining Islam, according to Bahai representatives in the United States and France. All those accused have denied the charges.

The Bahai leaders have been held in Tehran's notorious Evin Prison since 2008. The Baha'i World News Service reported:

"If this news proves to be accurate, it represents a deeply shocking outcome to the case of these innocent and harmless people," declared Bani Dugal, who represents the Baha'i faith in contacts with the United Nations, in a statement.

 The statement identified the detainees as two women, Fariba Kamalabadi and Mahvash Sabet, and five men: Jamaloddin Khanjani, Afif Naeimi, Saeid Rezaie, Behrouz Tavakkoli and Vahid Tizfahm.
They "were all members of a national-level group that helped see to the minimum needs of Iran's 300,000-strong Baha'i community, the country's largest non-Muslim religious minority," the statement said.

The sentencing has been met with an outcry from world leaders and human rights advocacy groups. The president of the European Parliament, Jerzy Buzek, called the sentences "a shocking signal and an immense disappointment."  Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the International Federation for Human Rights and the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran have all released statements condemning the sentencing.

Last year The Times reported on Southern California's Bahai community, and its efforts to support their prosecuted co-religionists in Iran.  The Bahai Faith, was founded a century and a half ago in Iran by the Persian nobleman Bahá’u’lláh, and preaches a message of unity among all religions. Baha'i followers have long been subject to prosecution in their home country, where their assertion that Bahá’u’lláh is a prophet is viewed as apostasy against Islam.  Read more about the Bahai faith here.

-- Daniel Siegal

Photo: The seven Bahai prisoners, photographed several months before their arrest. Credit: Bahai World News Service




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