IRAN: Court sentences leaders of Bahai faith to 20 years in prison
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.
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.
Photo: The seven Bahai prisoners, photographed several months before their arrest. Credit: Bahai World News Service