Iran: Seven members of Baha'i religious minority face possible death sentences

Group face trial ‘corruption on earth charge’ in Tehran Revolutionary Court

Amnesty International is calling for the release of seven members of Iran's Baha'i religious minority who face trial tomorrow (11 July) on multiple serious charges, including “being corrupt on earth” (mofsed fil arz) and "espionage for Israel".

The seven - Fariba Kamalabadi Taefi, Jamaloddin Khanjani, Afif Naeimi, Saeid Rezaie, Behrouz Tavakkoli, Vahid Tizfahm and Mahvash Sabet - are leaders of the Baha’i religious community in Iran, a minority group with a long history of being systematically harassed and persecuted in Iran.

The group, who have not been allowed visits by lawyers while in detention in Evin prison in Tehran, also face charges of "insulting religious sanctities" and "propaganda against the system." If found guilty they face long prison terms, while the charge of “being corrupt on earth” can carry a death sentence in Iran.

Call on the Iranian authorities to release the seven members of the Baha’i minority, who are prisoners of conscience.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

“Almost under cover of the crackdown since the election protests, the Iranian authorities have stealthily pressed ahead with a vindictive trial of these seven members of the Baha’i religious minority.

“Instead of persecuting them, the Iranian authorities should drop the charges and release the seven immediately.”

The seven 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. Six of the group's leaders - Fariba Kamalabadi Taefi, Jamaloddin Khanjani, Afif Naeimi, Saeid Rezaie, Behrouz Tavakkoli and Vahid Tizfahm - were arrested following raids on their homes by officers from the Ministry of Intelligence on 14 May 2008. A seventh person, acting as a secretary for the group, Mahvash Sabet, had been 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 is not recognised under the Iranian Constitution.

There are over 300,000 Baha'is in Iran. Their religion is not recognised under the Iranian Constitution, which only recognises Islam, Christianity, Judaism and Zoroastrianism. Baha'is in Iran are subject to discriminatory laws and regulations which violate their right to practise their religion freely, as set out in Article 18(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a state party. 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 practise 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.

Find out more about Amnesty's work in Iran /font>

View latest press releases