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Be Generous In Prosperity, And Thankful In Adversity

New trial date set for 7 former Bahá'í leaders in Iran

IRAN UPDATE: New trial date set for 7 former Bahá'í leaders in Iran. Attorneys have received word that the trial of seven Baha’is imprisoned since the spring of 2008 has been scheduled for 12 January. Two previous dates had been announced, but the trial was postponed each time.

Attorneys associated with the Defenders of Human Rights Center in Tehran – co-founded by Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi – are representing the Baha’is. The lawyers themselves have been harassed, including Mrs. Ebadi, who has been forced to remain outside Iran for an extended period, and Abdolfattah Soltani, who was detained for a time in the aftermath of the June national elections.

The names of the seven defendants are Mrs. Fariba Kamalabadi, Mr. Jamaloddin Khanjani, Mr. Afif Naeimi, Mr. Saeid Rezaie, Mrs. Mahvash Sabet, Mr. Behrouz Tavakkoli, and Mr. Vahid Tizfahm. Mrs. Sabet was arrested on 5 March 2008 and the others on 14 May 2008.

Jail conditions are harsh, and although all seven were at first held incommunicado, they are now allowed periodic visits with family members. The visits are often through a barrier and sometimes are canceled altogether.

Until their imprisonment, they were part of a group called the Friends in Iran that helped tend to the needs of the 300,000 Baha’is in Iran. The Friends group has now been disbanded, as have smaller committees that assisted Baha’is on the local level.

Earlier this year, authorities announced in the mass media that accusations against the seven prisoners would include “espionage for Israel, insulting religious sanctities, and propaganda against the Islamic republic.” Later it was announced that they would also be charged with "spreading corruption on earth."

The Baha’i International Community categorically denies the accusations against the seven individuals and states the following:

The accusation of spying is contrived and has long been used as a pretext to persecute Baha’is and as an attempt to impede the progress of the Bahá’í community. Since the 1930s, Baha’is have successively been accused of being tools of Russian imperialism, of British colonialism, of American expansionism, and, most recently, of Zionism. The Baha’i Faith has never been a part of any of these movements. There is no truth to this allegation, nor is there any evidence to support it.

That the international headquarters of the Baha’i Faith is located within the borders of modern-day Israel is purely the result of Baha’u’llah, the founder of the Baha’i Faith, being banished from his native Tehran and sent – by Persian and Ottoman authorities in the 19th century – to perpetual exile in the city of Acre, near Haifa. Baha’u’llah arrived in Acre in 1868, 80 years before the establishment of the state of Israel. The Iranian government is well aware of this history.

Accusations that Baha’is “insult religious sanctities” and promote “propaganda against the Islamic regime” are completely without foundation – Baha’is respect all religions, including Islam, and are loyal to government.

About 35 Baha’is in prison: Counting the seven people in Tehran who formerly constituted the Friends in Iran, about 35 Iranian Baha’is are in prison because of their religion.

The situation overall: The government campaign to eradicate the Baha’i community of Iran continues, with arrests, confiscation of assets, closing of businesses, long and frightening interrogations, raids on homes, denial of education and employment, harassment of schoolchildren, and other forms of persecution. The desecration of cemeteries and harassment over Baha’i burials are clear indications that the persecution is based solely on religion and not the result of any threat posed by Baha’is, as officials sometimes claim.

1980: Fate of prominent Baha'is: Iran -- members of the National Spiritual Assembly who disappeared in August in 1980. All are presumed to have been killed. Copyright Bahá'í International Community. Click photo to view. A video in their remembrance produced by Peggy Filias can be viewed here:

Photo copyright Bahá’í International Community.

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