January 4, 2019
Formerly imprisoned Baha’i faith member Ali Ahmadi has been arrested for a third time in Iran on the charge of “propaganda against the state,” this time for having a holy book inside his home, a source with knowledge about his case informed the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).
The latest arrest took place on November 18, 2018, in the city of Sari by the Caspian Sea where the 60-year-old works as a rice trader. He was taken into custody by agents of the Intelligence Ministry and is currently being held in solitary confinement at the Kachouie Detention Center in Sari.
“At 7:30 in the morning, eight agents from the Intelligence Ministry went to his house and quickly flashed a piece of paper that apparently gave them permission to search the house and arrest Mr. Ahmadi,” the source said on December 23 after requesting anonymity for security purposes.
“While searching the house, the agents repeatedly cursed and insulted him and called him a ‘Baha’i dog’ and warned him not to make contact with them with his ‘filthy’ body,” added the source. “They even pointed at a portrait of the Baha’i prophet, Abdu’l-Baha, on a wall and ordered him to bring that ‘filthy man’ down. Then they took away his personal belongings including some holy books.”
“The next day he was brought to a court in Ghaemshahr [Mazandaran Province] along with the eight agents and charged with ‘propaganda against the state.’ When his wife asked why, they said because he had a [Baha’i] holy book inside the house. When she said that was not a crime, they told her they knew better what is or isn’t a crime.”
The Baha’i community is one of the most severely persecuted religious minorities in Iran and the country’s Constitution does not recognize the faith as an official religion.
Although Article 23 states that “no one may be molested or taken to task simply for holding a certain belief,” followers of the faith are denied many basic rights and subjected to arbitrary arrests often on false charges of trying to propagate their religion.
Since his arrest, Ahmadi has spoken to his family on the phone three times and had a brief visit with his wife, the source told CHRI.
“One day they contacted Mrs. Ahmadi and said she could visit her husband for an hour,” said the source.” She was also twice warned that the visit would be canceled if she asked about the details of his case.”
The source continued: “When Mrs. Ahmadi went there, they first took her belongings and then took her to a car parked near the Intelligence Ministry’s detention center in Sari. Mr. Ahmadi was sitting in the back while two agents sat in the front while the couple spoke with each other for a few minutes.”
The source also told CHRI that agents had confiscated Ahmadi’s eyeglasses, which he requires due to severely weakened eyesight from several operations.
Ahmadi previously served 10 months in prison in 2008 for the charge of “propaganda against the state.” Two years later, he was arrested and convicted of the same charge and sentenced to one year in prison, which was ultimately reduced to a $3,970 fine on appeal.
Center for Human Rights in Iran