February 17, 2009

Worldwide concern over Iran’s Baha’i trial

by David Masters

Seven members of the Baha’i faith are to be brought to trial in Iran over charges of ‘spying for Israel’, insulting religious sanctities, and propaganda against the state.

Adhering to the Baha’i faith is illegal in Iran, and there are fears that the seven people being brought to trial could face the death penalty.

The US, the UK, and the EU have expressed concern over the trial.

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) joined the US House of Representatives and the State Department in calling for the release of the seven people on trial.

“It is disappointing that the Iranian government is demonstrating that it will use any pretext, however baseless, to harass and detain those whose religious beliefs differ from those enforced by the state,” said USCIRF chair Felice Gaer.

UK foreign office minister Bill Rammell said he is ‘very concerned’ about the charges.

In a statement to the press, Rammell said: “It is hard not to conclude that these people are being held solely on account of their religious beliefs or their peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression and association.”

Meanwhile, the EU reiterated its concern regarding the “ongoing systematic discrimination and the persecution of the Iranian Baha’is.”

Baha’is believe in the spiritual unity of humanity, and that their nineteenth century founder was the latest prophet of God, following in the path of Buddha, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Mohammad.

Worldwide, the religion has over five million followers.

The announcement of the trial follows a recent open letter signed by over 200 Iranian intellectuals asking forgiveness for their silence over the persecution of Baha’is.

“We will no longer be silent when injustice is visited upon you,” states the letter.

It adds: “We are ashamed that during the last 30 years, the killing of Baha’is solely on the basis of their religious beliefs has gained legal status and over 200 Baha’is have been slain on this account.”

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