An appeals court in Iran has sentenced eight Baha’i citizens to a total of nine years in prison for being members of their religious minority.
According to the verdict issued by the Branch 36 of Tehran’s Appeals Court presided over by Judge Seyed Ahmad Zargar, the Baha’i citizens Houman Khoshnam, Elham Salmanzadeh, Payam Sha’bani, Kianoush Salmanzadeh, Soruosh Agahi, Parvan Ma’navi, Jamileh Pakrou, Peyman Ma’navi and Neda Shabani were each sentenced to one year in prison for “propaganda against the state through proselytizing Baha’ism.”
The citizens had been innitialy sentenced to one year in prison on this charge, by the Branch 2 of Shahriar Revolutionary Court presided over by Judge Panahi.
The case of Maryam Ghaffarmanesh, another Baha’i citizen from Karaj, who was previously being tried at the same branch, is still under investigation.
The Baha’i citizens were previously detained by security forces in Karaj, between September and December 2018, and transferred to the Intelligence Ministry Ward 209 of Evin Prison.
They were released on bail in the following months until the end of the trial.
The state security forces inspected their homes upon their arrest and confiscated their personal belongings including their books, computers, laptops and cell phones.
The business premises of some of these citizens were also sealed after their arrest.
Iranian authorities routinely arrest its Baha’i citizens for practicing their religion charging them with national security offenses
In late December a Revolutionary Court in the southern port of Bandar Abbas sentenced eight Baha’i citizens to prison terms and other punishments.
Omid Afaghi, Mehrallah Afshar, Nasim Ghanavatian, Mahnaz Jannesar, Arash Rasekhi and Maral Rasti were each sentenced to two years while Farhad Ameri and Adib Haghpajooh were each sentenced to one year in prison.
Baha’i citizens in Iran are deprived of the freedoms associated with their religious beliefs, a systematic deprivation that, according to Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, everyone has the right to freedom of religion and belief; Express it individually or collectively and in public or in private.
U.S. State Department Deputy spokesperson Cale Brown criticized Iran’s treatment of Baha’is last month, highlighting its raids on the homes of about 50 Baha’i families on November 22.
“The Iranian regime has imprisoned dozens of Baha’is because of their faith and seeks to destroy their institutions and schools,” Brown wrote on Twitter. “Baha’i prisoners must be released, and their fundamental right of freedom of religion must be respected.”
According to unofficial sources, there are more than 300,000 Baha’is in Iran, but the Iranian regime does not recognize the Baha’i faith. For this reason, the rights of Baha’is in Iran have always been systematically violated and they have been persecuted as a matter of state policy since the revolution in 1979.