Yesterday, deputy Tehran prosecutor Hassan Haddad was quoted by semi-official news agency Isna, saying that Iran’s seven imprisoned Baha’i leaders (see photo) will be going on trial next week on charges of ”acting against the Islamic Republic” and “espionage for Israel,” allegations that may lead to execution.
The Baha’i community categorically denies these charges. No evidence against them has been brought to light and their lawyer, Iranian Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi has been prevented from meeting with the imprisoned Baha’i leaders for nearly a year to review their files.
The Baha’i faith, founded in 1863 in Iran, is considered heresy by the Islamic Republic. Followers of the faith have faced persecution since its founding. But the wave of repression has intensified in the last 30 years. There are some 300,000 Baha’is living in Iran. Baha’is refrain from involvement in partisan political activities.
The National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is in the US issued a statement saying that “the accusation of ’spying’ against these 5 men and 2 women is contrived, and has been used as a pretext to persecute Bahá’ís for more than three quarters of a century.” “Since the early 1930s, the Bahá’í Faith’s antagonists in Iran have insisted that the religion was instead a political sect created by imperialist governments attempting to weaken Islam. Bahá’ís have successively been accused of being tools of Russian imperialism, British colonialism, American expansionism and most recently, of Zionism.”
The international headquarters of the Baha’i Faith is based today within the borders of modern-day Israel purely as a result of the banishment of the Faith’s founder, Bahá’u’lláh, by the Persian and Ottoman empires in the mid-19th century. In 1868, 80 years before the state of Israel was founded, Bahá’u’lláh was exiled to perpetual imprisonment in the city of Akka.
10 days ago, a group of 42 Iranian writers, academics, artists, journalists, and activists signed an open letter to the Baha’i community, apologizing for the persecution of the Baha’i faithful in Iran in the last century and half.