Six Iranian citizens accused of acting against national security for following the Baha’i faith have been sentenced to a combined total of 18 years’ imprisonment, a representative of the Baha’i International Community (BIC) told Radio Farda.
All six Baha’is, residents of the impoverished Sistan and Baluchestan Province in southeastern Iran, were tried at a Revolutionary Court in Zahedan, the capital of the province.
In Iran, Baha’is have long been victim to systematic discrimination and persecution for their faith.
“We cannot yet confirm the reports, but we know that three of these Baha’is -- Houshang Mokhtari, Bijan Eslami, and Ali Anvari -- were detained three or four months ago and later released on bail. Now, sadly, we have heard they have all been sentenced to prison,” BIC spokesman Padiedeh Sabeti told Radio Farda.
Sabeti, based in London, said pressure on Baha’is in the provinces of Sistan and Baluchestan, Kerman, Kermanshah, and Hormozgan has intensified in recent months.
“Last month in Kerman, nine Baha’is were detained but released after being subjected to persecution. Based on social media reports, many of the detainees’ properties were confiscated,” she said.
Along with those suspected of opposing the ruling system in Iran, Bahai’is are often charged with actions against national security.
“The term is quite vague,” Sabeti said. “Many international institutions defending human rights have repeatedly asked [Iran] to deliver a clear definition of the term. Nevertheless, they have received no response.”
The trial of the six Baha’is was held some time ago, and their sentences were issued on the basis of a summons handed down on November 16 by the Zahedan court. Each was sentenced to three years, according to the Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA).
The group categorically rejected the charges of acting against national security, saying they are simply citizens persecuted for their religious beliefs.
According to HRANA, the convicted Baha’is plan to appeal their sentences within the next 20 days.
Meanwhile, many Baha’i businesses have been sealed off by Iranian security officers.
The action was in apparent reprisal for owners closing their businesses in observance of the recent Baha’i holidays celebrating the 200th anniversary of the birth of Baha’u’llah (the prophet of the Baha’i faith), which is of particular importance to the worldwide Baha’i community.