Translation by Iran Press Watch
HRANA News Agency – The Birjand Revolutionary Court has sentenced nine Baha’i citizens to a total of 54 years in prison. According to the sentence, each one of the Baha’is has been sentenced to six years in prison, and the funds raised by the Baha’is of Birjand for administrative expenses of the Baha’i community have been confiscated by the order of the court. The court hearing for these citizens was held on July 3, 2019, without their attorney present. These individuals were arrested in September 2017, and later released on bail. As reported by HRANA, the news agency of Human Rights Activists in Iran, the Revolutionary Court’s verdict was communicated to the nine Baha’is on July 6, 2019.
According to the indictment issued by Branch 2 of the Revolutionary Court of Birjand, nine Baha’is were each sentenced to 5 years in prison for the charge of “membership in the illegal Baha’i administration, disruptive to the national security” and one year in prison for the charge of “propaganda against the regime by teaching the Baha’i Faith”: 1. Sheyda Abedi, daughter of Lotfollah; 2. Firooz Ahmadi,son of Zabihollah; 3. Khalil Melaki, son of Nemat; 4. Simin Mohammadi, daughter of Mohammad; 5. Bijan Ahmadi, son of Zabihollah; 6. Maryam Mokhtari, daughter of Tarazollah; 7. Saghar Mohammadi, daughter of Mohammad; 8. Rafat Talebi Fard, daughter of Mohammad Hasan; and 9. Bahman Salehi, son of Zabihollah. Each has been sentenced to 6 years in prison.
In addition, according to the verdict issued, the funds collected for the administration of the affairs of the Baha’i community, through contributions made by the Baha’is of Birjand at Nineteen Day Feasts (community meetings), were also confiscated for the benefit of the government.
Also, according to the contents of the indictment, these Baha’i citizens were denied the right to have an attorney present during their court hearing. This was because Mazdak Etemadzadeh, the attorney for these individuals, is not among attorneys approved by the Judiciary Branch; in accordance with article 48 of the code of criminal justice, he was banned from the court hearing.
These Baha’is were arrested as a group of 9 on October 21, 2017, after the search of their home, and later released on bail in stages on November 18th, 20th and 24th of that year.
Baha’is in Iran are denied freedom of religion, a systematic exclusion, in contravention of article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a signatory, which state that everyone has a right to freedom of religion and to religious conversion based on their personal belief, as well as the freedom to express it individually or collectively, in public or in private.
According to unofficial sources in Iran, there are more than three hundred thousand Baha’is in the country; however, the Iranian constitution recognizes only Islam, Christianity, Judaism and Zoroastrianism, and does not recognize the Baha’i Faith. For this reason, Baha’i rights in Iran have been systematically violated over a number of years.