The 28th Branch of the Tehran Revolutionary Court sentenced four Bahai citizens to a total of 12 years of prison.
According to the Human Rights News Agency, the four men and women, identified as Mona Mehrabi, Elham Kerempisheh, Afsaneh Yadegar Ardestani and Ehsanollah Yadegar Ardestani were previously tried in absentia in 2019 and sentenced to a total of 20 years, later changed to 3 years of prison for each person.
The four Bahai citizens were charged with “membership in illegal organizations which are threats to national security”.
Iranian Bahais are deprived of freedom of religion as stated in Article 18 of the Core International Human Rights Treaties.
Unofficial sources say there are more than 300,000 people following the Bahai Faith in Iran. However, the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran only recognizes Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism and does not recognize Bahaism. Since the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, Iranian Bahais have been systematically persecuted as a matter of government policy. During the first decade of this persecution, more than 200 of Iran’s Bahais were killed or executed. Hundreds more were tortured or imprisoned, and tens of thousands lost jobs, access to education, and other rights – all solely because of their religious belief.
The persecution of Iran’s Bahais is still ongoing with dozens of Bahais languishing in prisons throughout Iran.
Case of another Bahai
In May 2020, Elaheh Samizadeh, a Baha’i citizen, was sentenced to one extra year of imprisonment and two years suspension from holding all governmental and public jobs by Branch 105 of Shiraz Criminal Court.
Samizadeh had previously been sentenced to six years in prison by Branch One of Shiraz Revolutionary Court, presided over by Judge Seyed Mahmoud Sadati, on charges of “propaganda against the regime and membership in opposition groups”. Based on Article 134 of Iran’s Islamic Penal Code, the charge with the highest penalty will be considered; this means that Samizadeh should serve five years in prison. Elaheh Samizadeh is the mother of a toddler boy, and charges brought up against her of “propaganda against the regime” and “collaborating” with “dissident “groups” are because she worked as an instructor at “mother-child innovation courses” using her valid college degree obtained from official institutions. Charge of “forging a university degree” was brought up against her in July 2019 and caused her bail to be increased by 60 million Toman.
According to the verdict that was communicated to Samizadeh on May 22, 2020, by Branch 105 of Shiraz Criminal Court presided over by Judge Fakharzadeh, “usage of scientific titles” which refers to her studies at BIHI (Baha’i University) is the underlying reason for her sentence of 1-year imprisonment and 2 years suspension from holding all governmental and public jobs. An informed source told HRANA: “She is accused of forging her diploma, while Samizadeh studied at the Baha’i Online University (BIHE) due to the Baha’is’ exclusion from studying at country’s accredited universities. She has also received her degree from this university, and after making bail has been repeatedly summoned and interrogated over this fact.”
Earlier, Shahriar Atrian, Navid Bazmandegan, Bahareh Ghaderi, Nora Purmoradian, Soheila Haghighat, Shahnaz Sabet, and Soodabeh Haghighat, were also charged by Branch 1 of the Shiraz Revolutionary Court, presided over by Judge Seyed Mahmoud Sadati in the same case. The charges against this group include “propaganda against the regime and membership in an opposition group” which caused a 6-year sentence for every member of this group, an 8-year sentence for Niloufar Hakimi, and a 1-year sentence for Ehsanullah Mahboub Rah Vafa. From this group, Ms. Haghighat is also awaiting another trial in the criminal court, and Niloufar Hakimi has previously been sentenced to five years in prison by a criminal court. Taking Samizadeh’s new convictions into account, she and nine others implicated in this case have been sentenced to a total of 63 years in prison. These citizens were arrested by security forces in September 2018 and were all released on bail impending trial. HARANA reports the second part of Samizadeh’s case which went into the sentencing phase on May 22, 2020, has added a 1-year conviction to her previously 6-year sentence, and this addition brings up the collective sentencing of this group to a total of 63 years.
Bahai’s of Iran are deprived of all liberties and religious related activities, a systematic deprivation of liberty which goes against Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, that entitle any person to freedom of religion and belief, freedom expression individually or collectively and in a public or private setting. According to unofficial reports, there are more than 300,000 Baha’is in Iran. However, Iran’s constitution only recognizes Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism, and does not recognize the Baha’i faith. And this reason has given the Iranian authorities an excuse to systematically violate the rights of Baha’i citizens over the years.