Iran imprisons 8 innocent Baha’is for alleged talks with BBC and VOA

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The Islamic Republic of Iran’s crackdown on the country’s persecuted Baha’i community continues unabated, with the incarceration of eight Baha’is for allegedly speaking to Western news organizations.

The US government media outlet Voice of America on Thursday first reported on the impending imprisonment of the Baha’is. VOA reporters  Michael Lipin and Ramin Haghjoo wrote: “According to the apparent court notice seen by VOA, the eight Baha’is were convicted of the national security charge in part for allegedly sharing information with Persian-language U.S. and Britain-based news outlets deemed hostile by Iran’s Islamist rulers, including VOA, BBC Persian and Human Rights Activist News Agency, or HRANA.”

HRANA’s US.-based senior advocacy coordinator, Skylar Thompson, told VOA : “The sentences make it clear that the Iranian judiciary aims to keep victims of human rights violations silent so that authorities may continue to act with impunity. HRANA is actively working to counter the government’s attempt to silence these victims.”

Diane Alai, the Baha’i International Community’s representative to the United Nations in Geneva, told VOA that the imprisoned Baha’is are innocent and that “The Iranian authorities have to use their imagination in order to cover up their persecution, which is, as the whole world knows, solely based on religious grounds.”

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VOA reported that the clerical regime detained the “Baha’is in April 2017, arresting seven of them in Bandar Abbas and on nearby Qeshm island and the other, Adib Haghpajooh, in the south-central city of Shiraz.”

The regime later released the Baha’is on bail. The document obtained by VOA said the Baha’is “also were convicted for providing educational programs for the youth of their community, including establishing a kindergarten and holding music classes and seminars for teenagers.”

VOA noted that it “cannot independently verify the authenticity of the document as it is barred from reporting inside Iran.”

According to VOA, the document said an appeals court confirmed two-year sentences for Omid Afaghi, Mehrallah Afshar, Farhad Ameri, Adib Haghpajooh, Mahnaz Jannesar and Arash Rasekhi; and one-year sentences were imposed on Nasim Ghanavatian and Maral Rasti.

The Hormozgan appeals court is also believed to have banned the Baha’is from “attending Baha’i banquets and other gatherings, and a requirement to learn about Islam by attending five counseling sessions at the Sajjadieh Cultural Institute of Islamic Thought in Bandar Abbas,” according to VOA.

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The Biden administration has not criticized Iran’s regime for its persecution of Baha’is.

Separately, Iran’s regime is believed to be behind a second desecration of the executed champion wrestler Navid Afkari’s grave. The Jerusalem Post reported in December that the Islamic Republic authorities destroyed Afkari’s grave.

The Iranian dissident journalist and women’s rights campaigner, Masih Alinejad, on Friday showed a picture of Afkari’s desecrated grave on Twitter and wrote:

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