Iran to indict 7 Baha'is as Israeli spies

Baha'is free to live in Iran but activities against Islamic Republic are prohibited.

Bahai good 88 224 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Bahai good 88 224
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Seven Iranian members of the Baha'i faith who are being held on suspicion of spying for Israel may be indicted by next week, the Islamic Republic's judiciary was quoted as saying on Tuesday. The seven detainees were "investigated on charges of spying for foreigners... and possibly by next week, an indictment will be issued and will be discussed in court," Reuters quoted judiciary spokesman Alireza Jamshidi as telling a news conference in Teheran. Spying carries a possible death sentence in Iran. Jamshidi added that Baha'is were free to live in Iran, but any activities against the Islamic state were illegal. The Baha'i faith, which now has its headquarters in Haifa, originated in Iran 150 years ago. Baha'is say the faith has five million adherents worldwide, including over 300,000 in Iran. An Iranian newspaper reported last year that the seven had confessed to setting up an illegal organization that took orders from Israel and others to undermine the Islamic government. British Foreign Office Minister Bill Rammell issued a statement in London on Monday expressing concern over the suspects' imminent trial and urging the Iranian government to ensure, at the very least, that their trial was fair, transparent and open to independent observers. Rammell said that the seven, who were arrested in March or May 2008, had had to wait more than eight months to be told of the charges against them, and had not been given access to a lawyer. "It is hard not to conclude that these people are being held solely on account of their religious beliefs or their peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression and association," he said. Rammell noted that the European Union had called several times for the detainees' immediate release. He also said there had been a serious deterioration in the human rights situation in Iran over the past few years, including a crackdown on activists and a sharp increase in the use of the death penalty.