Translation by Iran Press Watch
HRANA – The Alborz Province Court of Appeals has upheld the convictions of four Baha’i citizens: Abolfazl Ansari, Ruhollah Zibaei, Roein Kohansal and Mohammad Sadegh Rezaei. This verdict was announced in court on Tuesday April 28th. These Baha’i citizens had previously been sentenced on charges of “propaganda against the regime and in favor of the Baha’is” by the Karaj Revolutionary Court, to a total of four years in prison. The court based its decision on issues such as “defending the defendants based on the fact that the teaching of the Baha’i Faith is a religious principle”. This ruling was issued even though a branch of the Alborz Court of Appeals acquitted a Baha’i citizen in 2018 on the grounds that teaching the Baha’i Faith was not propaganda against the government.
These citizens had previously been sentenced to one year in prison by the First Branch of the Karaj Revolutionary Court, presided over by Judge Asif al-Husseini, each on charges of “propaganda activity against the regime in favor of the deviant Baha’i sect.”
In the text of the lawsuit filed with the District Court it was stated: Regarding the accusation against Mr. Roein Kohansal, son of Mohammad Ali; Mohammad Sadegh Rezaei, son of Ali Akbar; Abolfazl Ansari, son of Abolhassan; and Ruhollah Zibaei, son of Gholam, according to Article 500 of the Islamic Penal Code adopted in 1996,
they are sentenced to one year in prison based on propaganda activities against the holy system of the Islamic Republic of Iran and activities in favor of the deviant Baha’i sect and considering the report from Alborz Intelligence Agency and their direct defense and the justification of the defendants that the teaching of the Baha’i Faith is a religious matter. In addition, based on comments of some of our colleagues who are unfamiliar with security or religious issues or their unfamiliarity with the House of Justice, the illegitimate English entity, based in Israel, and according to the contents of the case file, the attributed crime of the above-mentioned persons is clear and certain.
The ruling was made even though a branch of the Alborz Court of Appeals acquitted a Baha’i citizen in 2018 on the grounds that teaching the Baha’i Faith was not essentially propaganda against the government.
A source familiar with the case of Ruhollah Zibaei told HRANA: “In his condition this is a heavy sentence for him. Mr. Zibaei suffers from 381 stitches on his body, he has no left leg below the knee, he is missing one kidney, he has a broken shoulder with nerve damage which renders his shoulder virtually useless, his right leg has no skin, and due to multiple injuries during an accident had a pulmonary embolism, is suffering from pulmonary issues, and is under medical care and supervision. He spent 16 months of his service during the Iran-Iraq war on the southern front. He was wounded three times in Dehlaviyeh, Soosangard, and Ahvaz, and lost one of his eardrums in a blast. However, because he is a Baha’i, he was not covered by the Martyr and Veterans Foundation. He was detained in solitary confinement for one month on charges of propaganda against the regime. Mr. Zibaei, even with his physical condition and disability, was active on WhatsApp and Telegram networks among his Baha’i friends. During his solitary confinement he refrained from having lunch and dinner due to the terrible food that was served. He has now been sentenced to one year in prison. He has two daughters, whom security officials arrested in 1990 for holding a religious prayer meeting at their home. They were later released and eventually forced to leave the country.”
The same source told HRANA about Mr. Abolfazl Ansari: “Mr. Ansari suffers from heart failure, and his heart works with batteries. Therefore, psychological and neurological pressures could have irreparable consequences to his health.”
Abolfazl Ansari and Ruhollah Zibaei were arrested by security forces at their homes in Karaj on August 3, 2019. Roein Kohansal was arrested on August 4, 2019. They were transferred to solitary confinement in Andarzgah 8, Rajai Shahr Prison in Karaj, known as the IRGC Intelligence Detention Center.
Mr. Zibaei was arrested by seven security forces at his private home in Baghestan, Karaj. After the arrest, the officers searched the house and confiscated his mobile phone and personal computer. Mr. Ansari was also arrested by people who identified themselves as law enforcement officers.
During the interrogation process, these Baha’i citizens were charged with “propaganda against the regime”, and were released on bail in August 2019, temporarily until the end of the trial.
The court hearing on the charges against these citizens was held on January 18, 2020, without the presence of their lawyers, at the First Branch of the Karaj Revolutionary Court. In protest against this, the defendants remained silent during the trial. A source close to the family of one of the citizens had previously told HRANA: “After the lawyers of these citizens went to court, the head of the first branch of the Karaj Revolutionary Court did not allow them to study the defendants’ case. The judge in a threatening tone demanded that the lawyers relinquish their defense so they could be replaced by public defenders; otherwise they would not be allowed to appear in court.”
Ruhollah Zibaei’s house was previously searched and his belongings confiscated by security forces in December 2010; he himself was summoned.
Baha’i citizens of Iran are systematically deprived of religious freedom, although according to 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, all people are entitled to freedom of religion, belief, and to change of belief, as well as the right to express and practice those beliefs individually or collectively, in public or in private.
Although unofficial sources estimate the Baha’i population of Iran at more than 300,000, Iran’s Constitution officially recognizes only Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism, and does not acknowledge the Baha’i faith as an official religion. As a result, the rights of Baha’is in Iran are systematically violated.