05/21/2008, 00.00
IRAN
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Fear for the lives of six Baha'is arrested on “security-related” charges

An Iranian government spokesperson confirms their arrest. The Baha’i community, which is a persecuted minority in Iran, notes that in the past some its leaders were arrested on similar charges and eventually died from torture in prison.

Tehran (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Iran’s Baha’i community is concerned about the fate of six of its members arrested last week on “security-related charges”. Under Iranian law the death penalty can be imposed in such cases.

According to Iranian government spokesman Gholamhossein Elham, Iran imprisoned six members of the Baha'i “sect” because “They have acted against Iran's national security”. He also denied that the arrests were motivated by religion.

There are an estimated 300,000 Baha'is in Iran, the largest religious minority in the country. Their faith is considered heretical by Iran’s Shia authorities and they have been persecuted since the Iranian Revolution in 1979.

The Iranian government has rejected such charges, insisting that all Iranians can freely profess their religion and that they all enjoy equal rights.

The Baha'i International Community reported on its news website last week that five men and one woman were detained on 14 May and taken to Tehran's Evin prison. All six are members of a committee that looks after the needs of Baha'is in Iran.

For many Iranian human rights activists the detainees are not likely to be freed unless the international community takes some action.

In the past many Baha'is have been tortured to death in prison after being arrested on subversion charges.

For many Iran experts the arrest of the six Baha'is is part of a broader repression campaign launched by the regime against the population in every field of social life.

The Islamic Republic is experiencing a profound internal crisis, affected by an especially “dangerous” social emergency characterised by frequent strikes and anti-government demonstrations.

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