Iran moving toward sentencing Bahai leaders it accuses of plotting overthrow
Washington Post / Tara Bahrampour and Thomas Erdbrink

TEHRAN -- Iran's judiciary is deciding on prison sentences for seven leaders of the Bahai community, who are being put on trial behind closed doors in Tehran, the semi-official Iranian Students News Agency reported. Bahai is an outlawed faith in the Shiite Muslim republic.

Arrested in 2008, the five men and two women, who acted as an unofficial leadership council for the faith's Iranian community, are accused of espionage and collaboration with Israel, Iran's archenemy. Bahai representatives have denied the charges.

"Iran's own law says that you can't be in jail without charges for over two months," said Shastri Purushotma, human rights officer for the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahais of the United States. "Iran has violated their own law by keeping them in jail for so long."

Purushotma, in Washington, dismissed the idea that the Bahais on trial had acted against the Iranian government and said they were scapegoats. "This is purely a case of religious persecution."

Bahai representatives in Washington said Sunday that the last information they had was that there had been a three-hour session Tuesday in which the judiciary read out the accusations against the seven.

The Bahai community faces increasing pressure after being blamed in part for organizing anti-government protests on Dec. 27. Eight people died during clashes with security forces.

The Javan Web site, which is close to the security forces, said 80 Bahais were arr... >>>

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