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The United States strongly condemns the decision by the Iranian government to commence an espionage trial of 7 leaders of Iran's Baha'i community. The 2 women -- Mahvash Sabet and Fariba Kamalabadi -- and 5 men –- Jamaloddin Khanjani, Afif Naeimi, Saeid Rezaie, Behrouz Tavakkoli, and Vahid Tizfahm -- have been held in Evin prison for more than 20 months. No evidence against them has been made public, and they have only been granted limited access to legal counsel. The 7 have been falsely charged with spying for Israel and of being "corrupt on earth," crimes that are punishable by death.
In a statement, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs Philip Crowley said reports indicate that "as many as 48 Baha'is are currently imprisoned in Iran solely on the basis of their religious beliefs. ... These persons," said Mr. Crowley, "are entitled to due process. The right to a fair and public hearing is embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Iran's constitution provides the right to legal representation in criminal cases, as does the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Iran is a party."
The Baha'is are not the only religious minority in Iran facing persecution. As the State Department's latest report on international religious freedom notes, "Government rhetoric and actions created a threatening atmosphere for nearly all non-Shi'a religious groups, most notably for Baha'is, evangelical Christians, and members of the Jewish community."
Open Doors, an international non-profit organization which supports persecuted Christians worldwide, recently ranked Iran as second only to North Korea as a place whose government persecutes Christians because of their faith alone.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Crowley said the U.S. is "deeply concerned about Iran's ongoing persecution of Baha'is and treatment of other members of religious minorities who continue to be targeted solely on the basis of their beliefs. We join the international community in urging the Iranian authorities to release all religious minorities who are currently in detention for peacefully exercising their human rights and fundamental freedoms."