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August 8th, 2010
06:44 PM ET

7 Baha'is sentenced to 20 years in Iran, group says

Seven Baha'i leaders in Iran have each received 20-year prison sentences, according to reports received by the Baha'i International Community, the group said Sunday.

"If this news proves to be accurate, it represents a deeply shocking outcome to the case of these innocent and harmless people," said Bani Dugal, the principal representative of the Baha'i International Community to the United Nations.

Word of the sentences came from an Iranian-based group called the Committee of Human Rights Defenders, according to Diane Ala'i, another Baha'i U.N representative. The Baha'i International Community is working to confirm the reports, she said.

The leaders were accused of espionage, propaganda activities against the Islamic order, and the establishment of an illegal administration, among other allegations, according to the Baha'i International Community. The group denied all charges.

"We understand that (those sentenced) have been informed of this sentence and that their lawyers are in the process of launching an appeal," Dugal said in a statement Sunday.

The Baha'i leaders–two women and five men–have been held in Tehran's notorious Evin prison since they were arrested in 2008. They are considered the nation's top-ranking Baha'is

The leaders' trial comprised six brief court appearances beginning last January, after they had been held without charges for up to 20 months, the Baha'i International Community said.

The group said the trial, during which the accused had roughly one hour's access to legal counsel, ended June 14. The verdict is believed to have been handed down Sunday, Ala'i said, though she had no details on the nature of the convictions.

Iran's 300,000-strong Baha'i community constitutes the country's largest non-Muslim religious minority.

The Baha'i faith originated in 19th century Persia, but the constitution of today's Islamic republic does not recognize it as a religion and considers the followers as apostates.

A U.N. State Department report released earlier this year blasted the Iranian government for its treatment of those practicing the Baha'i faith.

The report said Iran's government prevents Baha'is from gathering in homes to worship and bans Baha'is from public schools, universities, the social pension system and government leadership posts unless they conceal their religion.

"The government repeatedly pressured Baha'is to recant their religious beliefs in exchange for relief from mistreatment," the report said.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Baha'i • Iran • Middle East • Persecution • Politics • Religious liberty

soundoff (117 Responses)
  1. Amy

    Goodness why are some of the most ignorant people the most vocal?! I think before anyone engages in discussion they should all do their research! There is a HUGE difference between a divine religion from God (Christianity, Islam, The Baha'i Faith etc), and it's adherents...The religion is perfect, the adherent is not, and therefore an adherents interpretation and application of a religion will not always be perfect and will not be the way it is supposed to be. So can people stop being so PHENOMENALLY ignorant, and learn and understand not to attribute the stupid actions of stupid people, to the religion they say they're doing it in the name of...?

    August 14, 2010 at 11:14 am |
  2. Acmed Shams

    psychopathic shii doing what they do best: repress.
    still though,We should be wary of overt islamophobia, and be careful to single out extremists, such as the Taliban.
    You absolutely MUST see this:

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r9aw6Cnw0hY&w=640&h=390]

    August 12, 2010 at 5:30 pm |
  3. Reality

    The "real" Bahaists?

    10. No no–oky!! No way, no how!

    9: No booze! No, you might be having fun and you wouldn't
    want that.

    8: No politics. No, you wouldn't want to involve yourself
    in a good, healthy way that might actually improve the lives
    of the people in your community.

    7: Suffering. Yes, suffering. No Baha'i gathering is complete without the friends recounting how they have suffered for their faith.

    6: Silly Christians go to church. There, through outmoded
    'rituals' usually led by a 'clergymen' which Baha'is don't
    have, they often find themselves enriched and revitalized.
    Some even think they have communed with their God. If only
    they knew that if they were Baha'is they could go to a 19 day
    Feasts, a dreary, boring business meeting usually punctuated
    by some personal arguments. Some go on all night.

    5: Ridvan meetings: YES THEY DO GO ON ALL NIGHT. WE WILL
    GET SOMEONE TO BECOME THE TREASURER WHETHER THEY LIKE OR NOT, DAMNIT!

    4: You get to do all sorts of things you don't want to do,
    like be the treasurer and spend the next year haranging the
    friends for money.

    3: LSA Meetings. They are held at least once a week, they
    last for several hours.

    2: You get hit up for money, you get hit up for money. The
    new world order needs money, your money, it's an honor to
    bankrupt yourself for the Faith.

    1: You'll never have to bother your silly little brain by
    thinking again! All that hard brainwork had been done for you by the great "Babs".

    August 11, 2010 at 12:02 am |
    • PD

      Reality

      I am not sure what you have against bahai's that you post your opinion on an article about bahai's that are being sent to prison.

      I am not sure where you’re getting your information from or your ill feelings towards Bahai's Please educate yourself before you spout out gibberish. There are no great “babs” your opinions are false bias and are it’s obvious you have some personal issues and motives to spout hatred about another religion on here. What kind of hypocrite are you? You are mocking another religion and trying to say how horrible and awful it is doing that in of its self is childish degrading and stupid. Please grow up and get a life no one cares about your opinion of other religions. How you about you try to spread love instead of hate if you are even capable of such a thing.
      .

      August 11, 2010 at 12:44 pm |
    • Amy

      wow...you seem to have had a bad experience huh? again with the attributing the imperfect actions of adherents and individuals to a religion...tsk tsk tsk...

      August 14, 2010 at 11:16 am |
  4. ScottyJ

    The world is but one country and mankind its Citizens
    Baha'u'llah

    August 10, 2010 at 9:20 pm |
  5. askhow

    This is yet another sign that Iran and Islam are stuck in the 6th century. They continue to persecute minorities and those they do not agree with by imprisonment and death. It's sad!

    August 10, 2010 at 5:03 pm |
  6. Reality

    Bahaism supposedly is the only Institution in the world that has the living descendant of King David as its president, the great grandson of 'Abdu'l-Baha seated upon the throne of King David which is to last forever (Psalm 89) – this House alone, the true UHJ, has the Divine Power and God given Knowledge through the "KEY of DAVID" to heal the world of all its ills and guide a wayward and for–lorn humanity back out of the gloom of the darkness of war into the light of real fellowship, truth, fel-icity and brotherly love in the shade of the divine and holy Tree of Life – man reunited with God in the garden of God as this earth was meant to be – in fulfillment of this sacred verse."

    August 10, 2010 at 4:43 pm |
  7. chaharmahal

    I like to ask everyone to find a way no matter how infinitely small to hurt Islam and destroy it forever,take the matter in your hands do not trust the politicians they like to make money from Islam and chaos, identify muslims that are from Iran , pakistan,saudi , and reported on Utube or any way possible , there are lots of MUllas from Iran that have properties and businesses out side of Iran and support terrorists ......

    August 10, 2010 at 10:53 am |
    • Amy

      Islam is a religion from God....it cannot be destroyed by people...

      August 14, 2010 at 11:32 am |
  8. Barry77

    Reason 646 to destroy Islam: Their intolerance towards other religions.
    Reason 647 to destroy Islam: They make up false charges to imprison people from superior religions.

    August 9, 2010 at 10:47 pm |
    • Amy

      Islam like any other religion is a perfect and divine message from God. People are not perfect...wow...people are really not seeing the difference between the message and the practice huh?...shame.

      August 14, 2010 at 11:18 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.