Gross violations of the rights of religious minorities continue to take place in Iran.
The seven imprisoned leaders of Iran's Baha'i community have had a 20 year sentence reimposed, after authorities reversed an earlier decision to cut that term in half.
U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner condemned the move:
"We're deeply troubled about reports coming out of Iran that a 20 year sentence of the seven Baha'i leaders was reinstated on appeal by the prosecutor general, a man the United States recently imposed economic sanctions and a travel ban on for committing serious human rights violations. We condemn this unprecedented step as a violation of Iran's obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights."
The five men and two women have been in prison since they were arrested in the spring of 2008. In 2010, after summary trials where no evidence was produced, they were convicted of a series of national security crimes, including espionage.
Amnesty International calls the reinstatement of the 20 year sentence "outrageous" and another example of Iranian authorities "manipulating their own justice system to persecute members of a religious minority."
Other religious minority groups are also reporting mounting persecution in Iran. Yousef Nadarkhani, a Christian pastor in the city of Rasht has been sentenced to death for apostasy. Five other Christians, including Pastor Behrouz Sadegh-Khandjani, have been told they will stand trial in June on charges of blasphemy. Human rights monitors say that a Jewish-Armenian couple was secretly executed in Evin prison in March. Gonabadi dervishes, a Shia Sufi order, have been detained, and lawyers who defend them have been imprisoned.
As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said, "Freedom of religion is the birthright of people of all faiths and beliefs in all places. The United States is committed to defending religious freedom around the world, and ... will continue to call on the Iranian government to respect the fundamental rights of all its citizens."