May 14, 2019
A revolutionary court in the city of Bushehr in southern Iran sentenced seven members of the Baha’i faith to three years in prison each for allegedly answering questions about their religious beliefs to Muslim guests in their homes.
On May 6, 2019, they were convicted of “membership in an organization against national security,” a reference to the persecuted faith, a source with detailed knowledge of the cases told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) on May 9.
The source identified the Baha’i faith members as Asadollah Jaberi, his wife Ehteram Sheikhi, their son Emad Jaberi, Jaberi’s sister Farideh Jaberi, as well as Minoo Riyazati, Farrokh Faramarzi, and Pooneh Nasheri.
Their trial was held in two sessions in February 2019.
“We hope they will all be acquitted by the Appeals Court,” said the source who spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect their security.
“They were all arrested by Intelligence Ministry agents on February 13, 2018,” added the source. “The agents came inside their homes with search and arrest warrants and confiscated several personal belongings.”
Iran’s Constitution does not recognize the Baha’i faith as an official religion (such as Islam, Christianity, Judaism and Zoroastrianism). 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 as one of the most severely persecuted religious minorities in the country.
The seven, who were subjected to verbal abuse by their interrogators, were released on bail a month later, the source added.
“Some of these Baha’is were arrested on a previous occasion 10 years ago and at the time, they were treated with respect,” said the source. “But this time it was very different, they said … the interrogators were very rude and used vulgar words against the men and the women, hurling curses never heard before.”
The source continued: “They were asked why they had invited Muslims into their homes and held meetings and preached their religion to them. They said, ‘They were our friends, regardless of religious beliefs, and if they had any questions about our religion, we answered them.’”
The source also told CHRI that some of the seven own their own businesses and are active members of the community.
“Bushehr is a small city. Everyone knows these Baha’is and speak well of them,” said the source. “They have done a lot of good things for the city, despite all the discrimination. We hope the Appeals Court will be fair. There’s no evidence they acted against the state or national security.”
“They were just living their lives as citizens of this country,” added the source. “The only difference was their beliefs.”