[HRA, 17 Oct. 2011] HRANA News Agency – Seven professors and officials involved in Baha’i Institute for Higher Education (BIHE) have been sentenced to a total of 30 years in prison. BIHE is a provisional online university established for Baha’i citizens who have been denied the opportunity to study at Iran’s higher education institutes.
According to the Committee of Human Rights Reporters, during the last couple of days, Judge Moqayaseh presiding over the 28th branch of the Revolutionary Court has sentenced seven Baha’i citizens to a total of 30 years in prison. The defendants were present in the courtroom when the verdicts were read. Defense attorneys objected to the rulings and filed appeals on behalf of their clients. The verdicts are as follows:
- Kamran Mortezahi – 5 years imprisonment
- Vahid Mahmodi – 5 years imprisonment
- Riaz Sobhani – 4 years imprisonment
- Mahmoud Badavam – 4 years imprisonment
- Ramin Zibaie – 4 years imprisonment
- Farhad Sedghi – 4 years imprisonment
- Noshin Khadam – 4 years imprisonment
Citing Article 499 of the Islamic Penal Code , Judge Moqayaseh sentenced seven Baha’i professors and university officials for being involved in an illegal group with the intention to commit crimes against Iran’s national security. These seven individuals together with nearly 300,000 other citizens throughout the country are members of Iran’s Baha’i Community outlawed by the Islamic Republic of Iran.
On May 22, 2011, Iranian security forces raided the houses of more than 40 Baha’i professors, students and university officials and arrested six of the aforementioned individuals. Riaz Sobhani was arrested separately on June 13, 2011. During the last few months, more than 20 Baha’i citizens connected to the online university have been detained, and nearly 50 individuals have been summoned to the Intelligence Agency. Furthermore, several buildings including a laboratory have been sealed, and the university’s website has been filtered and blocked multiple times.
Last week, all of the defendants with the exception of Noshin Khadam were transferred to Rajai-Shahr Prison. On October 15, 2011, Noshin Khadam was transferred to the women’s ward in Evin Prison.
 Article 499 mandates three months to five years’ imprisonment. Two cases above have passed the maximum penalty under article 499, and five cases of 80% of the maximum sentence.