Report: Bahai detainees admit Israel links

Iranian paper says prisoners confess to setting up illegal organization to undermine Islamic system.

bahai center 224.88 cour (photo credit: Courtesy)
bahai center 224.88 cour
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Members of Iran's Bahai community have confessed to forming an illegal organization with ties to Israel, the Iranian newspaper Resalat reported on Sunday. "Seven Bahai individuals have set up an illegal organization with connections to a number of countries including Israel and they have received orders from them to undertake measures against the Islamic system," the Iranian daily reported. But citing a "decades-long campaign to stamp out the Bahai community in Iran," the international Bahai community rejected the charges and disputed the so-called confessions on Sunday, insisting that Iran's government was trumping-up charges against a minority group they consider to be apostates and heretics. "These are the types of charges that have been leveled against the Bahai community in Iran since the [1979] Islamic Revolution," said Douglas Moore, director of the Public Information Office at the International Bahai Headquarters in Haifa. "Even before the revolution, the Bahai community in Iran was accused of being spies for the British or the Russians. It really comes down to the fact that they are being targeted because of their religious beliefs." The gravity of the charges has led Moore and other representatives of the Bahai community to fear for the detainees' lives. Twenty-nine people were executed last month in Teheran for offenses ranging from drug trafficking to subversive activity, and according to the International Federation for Human Rights, more than 200 Bahais were executed in Iran between 1978 and 1998, while several hundred more have been imprisoned for their religious beliefs. In 2007, 355 people were executed in Iran, second only to China as the world's biggest executioner. "We haven't seen Bahais released in the past, nor have we seen due process with regard to Bahais or other religious minorities in Iran," Moore said. "It's been steadily worsening over the past few years and we are deeply concerned about the welfare of these people." The destruction of Bahai property and holy places had also increased in recent years, along with a pattern of arson against homes belonging to Bahais, he said. Other cases of discrimination included arresting Bahais and releasing them only after they give over the deeds to their property for bail, he said. "There is a steady drumbeat against the Bahai in Iran," Moore said. "And this is just a continuation of it." The tenets of the Bahai faith trace their roots to Iran, where the early Bahai prophet Baha'ullah founded the religion in the mid-19th century. While the largest Bahai community of nearly two million resides in India, 300,000 Bahai still live in Iran, where reports of abuse and discrimination against them continue to surface. According to a report released by CNN this year, attacks on Bahais in Iran have increased since Mahmoud Ahmadinejad became president in 2005, and the United Nations Commission on Human Rights recently revealed a confidential letter from Command Headquarters of the Armed Forces of Iran to identify Bahais and to monitor their activities. "The Bahai teachings of the oneness of humanity and acceptance of others just shows that what is taking place in Iran is irrational and based in Islamic fundamentalism," Moore said. "It's a low-frequency campaign of ongoing discrimination." Also in Iran on Sunday, three men and a woman were sentenced to death for their alleged connections to Israel. The Iranian government has implicated them in a blast at a mosque in Shiraz on April 12 that killed 14 people and wounding dozens. Ahmadinejad said that "due to the calculated effort made by Iranian intelligence officials, the people who caused this blast were arrested quickly and admitted their connection to the Zionist regime, America and England."