In separate statements, German Chansellor Angela Merkel and European Union expressed deep concern about the fate of seven Baha’i leaders who were arrested months ago, facing charges of “acting against Iran’s national security” and “spying for Israel.”
Merkel’s spokesman Ulrich Wilhelm quoted the German chansellor, saying that the detainees have not been informed about their charges and have no access to defense and a fair trial. “This would negatively affect Iran’s relations with the international community.” (For a detailed report in Persian, see Radio Farda’s report).
The Baha’i community categorically denies the allegations. The Baha’i faith, founded in Iran in the 19th century, is considered heresy in Iran and Baha’i faithful are persecuted for their belief. Baha’i faithful refrain from participating in political activities. Human rights organizations are concerned that the seven Baha’i leaders could be executed in the next few days or weeks.
The arrests have been criticized internationally, and on February 13 the United States said they are part of the systemic persecution of Baha’is in Iran.
Roya Kamalabadi, whose sister Fariba is among the detained, agrees, telling RFE/RL correspondent Golnaz Esfandiari that her sister and the other six Baha’i leaders were detained solely on the basis of their faith, which is not recognized in the Iranian Constitution.
“Baha’i religious institutions were banned in Iran after the revolution and religious and other issues such as marriages, divorces, death, and other similar issues are being managed by a group called “The Friends of Iran.” The Iranian government has always been aware of the existence of this group and [government officials] have had meetings with this group.”
“My sister is a members of “The Friends” that takes care of the issues of Iran’s 300,000 Baha’is, including education. As you know, Baha’is are deprived of higher education in Iran. [The Friends of Iran] had created a university and they were involved in educating young Baha’is in Iran, and in [administrative and religious] issues.” (For the full text of the interview conducted by Golnaz Esfandiari from RFE/RL, please click here).