Seven Baha’i citizens were arrested by the Intelligence Ministry in Bandar Abbas and Qeshm Island, southern Iran, on April 18, 2017, an informed source told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).
Mahnaz Jannesar, Nasim Ghanavatian, Maral Rasti, Farhad Ameri, Arash Rasekhi, Mehrallah Afshar and Omid Afaghi are being held on unknown charges in the ministry’s detention center in Bandar Abbas without access to legal counsel.
The arrest of Adib Haghpajooh, another member of the faith, in Shiraz, south-central Iran, was also reported on April 18.
“It’s clear the arrests were ordered by the Intelligence Ministry,” said the source who asked for anonymity for security reasons. “They are carrying out illegal interrogations without allowing the suspects to talk to a lawyer so they can fabricate some charges against them.”
Article 5 of Iran’s Criminal Procedure Regulations states that detainees must be informed of the charges and given access to a lawyer “as soon as possible.”
The source described one of the arrests to CHRI.
“There was a knock on the door and when we asked who it was, they answered that they were anti-narcotic agents who had received a report that there were drugs in our house,” said the source. “When we opened the door, they came inside with a video camera and began checking our books and laptop as well as our banking and other financial statements.”
Continued the source: “The agent with the camera did not show a warrant or ask for permission. He just started filming inside the house. We weren’t given a chance to prepare and change our clothes. They confiscated every electronic device we had. They didn’t care. They even took away religious symbols and images hanging on the walls. Then they searched the workplace of the detainees and confiscated their computers.”
Iran’s Constitution recognizes three religions other than the official religion of Islam: Christianity, Judaism and Zoroastrianism. Consequently, the Baha’i community are denied many basic rights as one of the most severely persecuted religious minorities in Iran.
Baha’is are meanwhile barred from accessing higher education.
“The expectation of the Baha’i International Community is that you call upon your government to undertake an immediate review of the economic oppression imposed on the Baha’is, the largest non-Muslim minority in your country, and to remove the obstacles over time, but with reasonable pace,” wrote Bani Dugal, the Baha’i International Community’s Principal Representative, in a letter to Rouhani in September 2016.