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Rights Groups: Iran Confirms Prison Terms for 8 Baha'is


Iranian Baha’i Zabihollah Raoufi, 69, appears in this undated photo published by Iran’s Human Rights Activist News Agency, July 25, 2018. In reports published this week, HRANA said he was one of eight Iranian Baha’is whose long prison sentences had been confirmed by Iranian appeals courts.

Human rights groups say Iranian courts have confirmed prison terms for eight Baha’is, members of a religious minority that has experienced decades of discrimination in the Shiite Muslim-majority nation.

In a report published Thursday, Iran’s Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA) said an appeals court in the central city of Yazd confirmed prison terms for six Baha’i men and one Baha’i woman. The report did not specify the charges against the seven or when the court confirmed their sentences. A separate HRANA report published Wednesday detailed the sentencing of an eighth Baha’i by another court.

Iran considers its Baha'is to be heretics with no religion. Rights groups say authorities routinely arrest members of Iran's estimated 300,000-strong Baha'i minority for expressing or practicing their beliefs.

HRANA said two of the men sentenced by the Yazd court, Mehran Islami Amir Abadi and Mehranband Amir Abadi, were given prison terms of 1½ years. It did not say whether they were related.

The rights group said Mehran Islami Amir Abadi already was facing one year of prison time in connection with another case, his 2012 arrest on charges of spreading anti-government propaganda. It said he probably would have to serve the previous sentence and the new sentence consecutively, keeping him in prison for 2½ years.

The rights group named five other Baha'is as receiving three-year prison terms from the Yazd court. It identified them as Soroureh Foroughi Mehdi Abadi, a woman, and four men: Farzad Rouhani Munshadi, Ahmad Jafari Naeim, Ramin Hassouri Sharafabadi, and Mohammad Ali Tadrisi.

In an earlier report published Wednesday, HRANA said an appeals court in the northwestern city of Sanandaj confirmed a one-year prison sentence for a local Baha'i man, Zabihollah Raoufi, 69. It said Raoufi also was sentenced to one year in exile in the southern city of Minab, but it did not say when the court rulings were made.

Arrested in 2015

HRANA said Iranian authorities arrested Raoufi in 2015 and released him on bail six days later, with a court later convicting him of spreading anti-government propaganda.

The New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) published a report about Raoufi on Thursday, quoting a source who confirmed HRANA's details of Raoufi's sentencing. CHRI added that Raoufi's conviction for spreading anti-government propaganda related to his alleged activities in promoting the Baha'i faith.

HRANA said Raoufi previously was arrested in 2009 on similar charges and served six months in prison in the western city of Tuyserkan.

There was no immediate comment on the latest sentencings of Iranian Baha'is from the Baha'i International Community. BIC leaders have called for international pressure on Iran to stop mistreatment of Baha'is and to abide by its international commitments to respect their religious beliefs.

This report was produced in collaboration with VOA's Persian service.