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Iran Releases Baha’i Leader As ‘Unfair Imprisonment’ Term Ends

Saeed Rezaie, one of the seven members of a former group of Baha’i leaders in Iran has been released from jail after ten years of “unfair imprisonment” for his beliefs, the Baha’i International Community reported on Friday February 16.

Rezaie and six other members of a group that led the Baha’i community in Iran were arrested and jailed after security forces stormed their homes in 2008.

The seven members of the leadership group were sentenced to 10 years of imprisonment. The leadership group attended to the social and spiritual needs of the followers of the Baha’i faith.

According to the Baha’i International Community, the leadership group, known as “Yaran” were formed after previous Baha'i leadership institutions were outlawed about three decades ago, and Iranian authorities were fully aware of that.

According to the campaign “No to prosecution of Baha’i citizens,” Rezaie, 60, is a prominent Baha’i figure. He was born in Abadan and grew up in Shiraz and is extremely knowledgeable about the Baha’i faith and has authored several books about the religion.

Rezaie is an agricultural engineer and was the manager of an agricultural machinery firm in the Fars province.

He was also jailed for 40 days in solitary confinement in 2006.

Three other members of Yaran group, Fariba Kamalabadi, Mahvash Sabet and Behrouz Tavakoli, have also been freed at the end of their prison terms in recent months. Three more former Bahai leaders, Jamaleddin Khanjani, Vahid Tizfahm and Afif Naimi, are still in jail.

Rezaie’s release from jail took place within a few days of the arrests of seven Bahai’s in Bushehr in southern Iran.

According to the International Baha’i Community the prosecution of Bahai’s has continued and the situation has worsened during Hassan Rouhani’s presidency.

The Baha’i International Community’s representative at the UN headquarters in Geneva, Dayan Alai, says “in spite of the release of Rezaie and three other Bahai leaders, the prosecution and torturing of Bahais continue in Iran. Alai said: “Rezaie is returning from jail to a community under heavy pressures from the government. Baha’is are being subject to discrimination merely because of their faith in Baha’ism.”

The Bahai community in Iran has been constantly facing prosecution by the government since the beginning of the Islamic clerics’ rule in Iran in 1979. The followers of the faith have been deprived of their civil rights, and have been tortured and executed since then.

Human rights watchers and international institutions have repeatedly urged Iran to stop prosecuting the Bahais.

Most recently 25 lawyers from around the globe wrote a letter to the Iranian Judiciary demanding an improvement in the situation.

The Islamic Republic of Iran does not recognize Baha’ism as a religion. The country’s Prosecutor-General has recently warned Iranians of “the consequences of being in contact with Baha’is.”

The UN has protested to the Iranian government’s treatment of the Baha’is and considers it to be tantamount to “systematic discrimination