AP: Iran court opens trial of 7 Baha’is on spy charges

Jan 12, 20100 comments

Tue Jan 12, 10:55 am ET

btemplehafaiTEHRAN, Iran – Seven members of Iran’s Baha’i minority went on trial on Tuesday on charges of spying and acting against the country’s national security, state media reported. According to state TV Web site, the charges against them also include cooperating with archenemy Israel, gathering classified documents and “corruption on earth” — an Islamic term for crimes punishable with the death sentence in Iran. Since 1979 when Islamic clerics came to power, the Iranian government has banned the Baha’i religion, founded in the 1860s by Baha’u’llah, a Persian nobleman considered a prophet by the Baha’is. Islam considers Muhammad as the last of the prophets. The first hearing in the trial of the seven was held at Tehran’s Revolutionary Court, Prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi told the state IRNA news agency. He added that the trial would continue but did not elaborate. State media also reported that the seven Baha’is’ alleged confessions and evidence gathered against them proves they had shared information and personal views while visiting residences of various western European ambassadors to Tehran. The seven are also accused of harming Iran’s image in domestic and international circles. The international Baha’i community argues Tehran is prosecuting the seven for their religious beliefs. The Baha’i faith is said to have up to 6 million followers worldwide. The U.S. State Department strongly condemned the trial. Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs Philip J. Crowley said the seven were detained for more than 20 months without authorities making public any evidence against them and with little access to legal counsel. “We are deeply concerned about Iran’s ongoing persecution of Baha’is and treatment of other members of religious minorities who continue to be targeted solely on the basis of their beliefs,” Crowley said in a statement released late Monday. It said reports indicate as many as 48 Baha’is are currently imprisoned in Iran solely on the basis of their religious beliefs. Iranian security troops raided the homes of several prominent Baha’is in Tehran in May 2008. Six from the group on trial on Tuesday were jailed at the time, while the seventh member was detained earlier, in March 2008, Baha’i officials have said. Baha’i offices based outside Iran have identified the seven as: Fariba Kamalabadi, Jamaloddin Khanjani, Afif Naeimi, Saeed Rezaei, Behrouz Tavakkoli, Vahid Tizfam and Mahvash Sabet. Also in 2008, Iran sentenced more than 50 Baha’is to prison for proselytizing and distributing propaganda against the country’s ruling Islamic clerics, according to judicial authorities. Fifty-one other Baha’i followers were given one-year suspended sentences following their detention in the southern city of Shiraz. Source: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100112/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_iran_baha_is