NEW YORK - Members of the Baha'i community in Iran are the most persecuted religious minority in the Islamic Republic, where suppression of alternative faiths is growing worse, UN special rapporteur for human rights in Iran Ahmed Shaheed said on Monday.

Shaheed also warned that the increasingly harsh sanctions against Tehran over its nuclear program may be preventing normal Iranians from exercising their human rights because they face greater difficulties accessing medicine and other basic necessities.

"By and large I would say the Baha'is are the most persecuted religious minority in Iran," he told a seminar at the International Peace Institute in New York.

The Baha'i faith is not a recognized religion in Iran, which Shaheed said was likely the main reason its practitioners were being persecuted.

"The numbers of Baha'is that are in prison have increased, over a hundred at the present time according to the information I have," Shaheed said.

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