A jailed member of Iran’s persecuted Baha’i religious minority, Payam Vali, has been denied short-term leave to attend his mother’s funeral.
Despite three days of entreaties to the authorities, Judge Asif Al-Husseini, head of the Karaj Revolutionary Court, refused Vali’s request.
Vali’s mother, Farangis Foroughi, passed away on April 2. He had tried to speak to his mother on the phone from prison, before her death, but he was unable to hear her voice due to her worsening condition.
Vali was arrested on September 24, after police raided his home and workplace in Karaj, near Tehran. He was severely beaten by the officers after resisting arrest.
He has been sentenced to 16 years in prison by the court of first instance, headed by Judge Al-Husseini. Vali has repeatedly requested temporary leave from prison. The only condition set for taking leave was to give a confession – which he has refused.
Vali is accused of spreading propaganda against the Islamic Republic, cooperating with foreign media, and inciting protests via social media.
In November, Vali was told he would be released if he agreed to confess to the charges against him during a televised appearance.
Since the establishment of the Islamic Republic in 1979, Baha’is in Iran have faced systematic discrimination and harassment, including deportation, restrictions on education, property confiscations, imprisonment, torture, and executions.
The authorities have not even spared the dead. Baha’i cemeteries in Iranian cities and villages have been confiscated and destroyed, and new buildings have been constructed on the burial grounds to leave no traces of remains.
Baha’is number some 300,000 in Iran and an estimated 5 million followers worldwide. Shia Islam is the state religion in Iran, and the constitution recognizes a number of minority faiths, including Christianity, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism but not the Baha’i faith.