A Revolutionary Court in Iran has sentenced seven followers of the Baha’i faith to a total of 33 years in prison, Iran Human Rights News Agency (HRANA) reported on Thursday.
According to the report Branch One of the Revolutionary Court in Shiraz on May 10 sentenced Shahriar Atrian, Navid Bazmandegan, Bahareh Qaderi (Ghaderi), Noura Pourmoradian and Soudabeh Haqiqat (Haghighat) to six years in prison each, Niloufar Hakimi to eight years and Ehsanollah Mahboub-Rahvafa to one year on charges of “propaganda against the regime and membership in anti-regime groups”.
Niloufar Hakimi who has been sentenced to eight years had previously been sentenced to five years in prison by a criminal court.
Elaheh Samizadeh and Soudabeh Haqiqat who have been sentenced to six year jail terms by the Revolutionary Court are also awaiting a trial on separate charges by a criminal court.
These Baha’i citizens were arrested in September 2018 by security forces and were released on bail until their trial.
More than 300,000 Baha’is live in Iran. Unlike Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians whose religions are recognized as minority religions by the Iranian Constitution, Baha’is are deprived of the freedom to practice their religion and are not admitted to higher-education institutions and are not allowed to run their own schools.
Although Iran recognizes Christianity as a legitimate religion, it punishes those who convert from Islam to Christianity. Converts are subject to societal and official pressure and often sentenced to prison terms, fines and lashing but judges also have the power to sentence them to death.
In recent years many converts to Christianity, mainly to various Protestant, Evangelical and other minority churches in Iran have been arrested by Iranian authorities. The number of converts to Christianity is very difficult to verify due to the secretive nature of the communities of Christian converts.
In May 2019 Iran’s Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi expressed concern over Iranian Muslims converting to Christianity in various parts of the country and said the Intelligence Ministry and the Qom Seminary had taken measures to counter it.