A court in a northeastern Iran province sentenced nine Iranian Baha’is to hefty prison terms.
The Birjad court in Southern Khorasan province sentenced each of the Baha’i men and women to six years of prison and confiscated money raised by the Baha’i community in the city.
According to a human rights group, the trial for the nine Iranian Baha’is was held on July 3 without a lawyer.
Sheida Abedi (F), Firouz Ahmadi, Khalil Melaki, Simin Mohammadi (F), Bijan Ahmadi, Maryam Mokhtari (F), Saghar Mohammadi (F), Raf’at Talebi Fard, and Bahman Salehi were detained in 2017 but had been released on bail shortly after.
They have been sentenced to five years of prison for “membership in the illegal and security disruptive Baha’i organization” and one year of prison for “spreading propaganda against the system by promoting Baha’ism”.
Because their lawyer, Mazdak Etemadzadeh, was not approved by the Judiciary, he was not allowed to represent them in the trial and the proceedings went on without him.
The Bahá’í Faith in Iran is the country’s second-largest religion after Islam. However the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran only recognizes Islam, Christianity, Judaism and Zoroastrianism and does not recognize Baha’ism.
Since the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, Iran’s Baha’is have been systematically persecuted as a matter of government policy. During the first decade of this persecution, more than 200 of Iran’s Baha’is were killed or executed, hundreds more were tortured or imprisoned, and tens of thousands lost jobs, access to education, and other rights – all solely because of their religious belief.
Attacks on Iran’s Baha’is or Baha’i-owned properties go unprosecuted and unpunished, creating a sense of impunity for attackers. Since 2005, for example, there have been at least 52 incidents of arson against Baha’i properties, crimes for which no one has been arrested.
During the same period, at least 60 incidents of vandalism or desecration at Baha’i cemeteries have been recorded. As noted by a top UN human rights official, the government-led persecution spans “all areas of state activity, from family law provisions to schooling, education, and security.”