Seven members of Iran's Baha’i religious minority could face the death penalty if convicted on Saturday.
The seven are to appear before Branch 28 of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran where they are likely to be charged with mofsed fil arz (being corrupt on earth), "espionage for Israel”, “insulting religious sanctities” and “propaganda against the system."
Amnesty International has called on the Iranian authorities to release the seven members of the Baha’i minority, whom the organization considers to be prisoners of conscience.
The detainees were arrested in March and May 2008. Their families were told in May 2009 that they were now facing the additional charge of mofsed fil arz, which can carry the death penalty. Their lawyers have never been able to visit them since their arrest, though they have been allowed family visits.
The detainees are members of a group responsible for the Baha’i community’s religious and administrative affairs in Iran. They are held in Section 209 of Evin Prison, which is run by the Ministry of Intelligence. Officers from the Ministry of Intelligence arrested six of the group’s leaders - Fariba Kamalabadi Taefi, Jamaloddin Khanjani, Afif Naeimi, Saeid Rezaie, Behrouz Tavakkoli and Vahid Tizfahm - following raids on their homes on 14 May 2008. A seventh person, acting as a secretary for the group, Mahvash Sabet, was arrested on 5 March 2008. Fariba Kamalabadi Taefi, Behrouz Tavakkoli and Jamaloddin Khanjani had previously been arrested for their activities on behalf of the Baha’i community.
The Baha’i faith was founded about 150 years ago in Iran and has since spread around the world. Since the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979, the Baha’i community has been systematically harassed and persecuted.
There are over 300,000 Baha’is in Iran, but their religion is not recognized under the Iranian Constitution, which only recognizes Islam, Christianity, Judaism and Zoroastrianism. Baha’is in Iran are subject to discriminatory laws and regulations, which violate their right to practice their religion freely,
The Iranian authorities also deny Baha’is equal rights to education, to work and to a decent standard of living by restricting
their access to employment and benefits such as pensions. They are not permitted to meet, to hold religious ceremonies or to practice their religion communally. Since President Ahmadinejad was elected in 2005, dozens of Baha’is have been arrested.
Members of the Baha’i community in Iran profess their allegiance to the state and deny that they are involved in any subversive acts against the government, which they say would be against their religion. The Baha’i International Community believes that the allegations of espionage for Israel, which have over the years been made against the community in Iran, stem solely from the fact that the Baha’i World Centre is in Israel.
The organization has also urged the Iranian authorities to drop the charges against the seven, to ensure that they are protected from torture and other ill-treatment and to ensure that they are given regular access to their families, lawyers of their choice and any medical treatment they may require.