The appeals court in Iran’s Golestan province has acquitted 24 Baha’i citizens of the charge of having relations with “the hostile state Israel”. However, these citizens were still issued prison sentences for “membership in a group to disturb national security” and “Propaganda against the system”, according to news. 23 of them were sentenced to a total of 48 years in prison. The case file for Tina Moohebati, who was under the age of 18 at the time of her arrest and sentenced to nine years in prison by a lower court, did not receive her appeals court verdict.
The appeals court reportedly acquitted the 24 Baha’i citizens of the charge of having relations with Israel after they testified that their communication with the Baha’i Faith Universal House of Justice (Bayt al-Adl) based in Haifa, Israel was solely frequently asked questions about the Baha’i faith. The court reportedly said that enquiries about a religion does not equate to having relations with Israel. According to reports, the appeals court judge stated lack of evidence as the reason for acquitting the 24 Baha’i citizens.
At least 32 Baha’i citizens have been detained by Iranian authorities in several cities in the Golestan province since September 2012. They were reportedly subjected to severe physical and psychological torture and accused of attempting to spread the Baha’i faith among Muslims. Through torturing them the interrogators reportedly aimed to extract forced confessions. Eight Baha’i citizens with five to ten-year prison sentences are currently detained in Karaj’s Rajai Shahr Prison. 24 others were sentenced to six to eleven years in prison by the Revolutionary Court in Gorgan (Golestan province).
Situation of Baha’Is in Iran:
The Iranian authorities place pressure on Baha’i citizens in various ways, such as banning them from their education solely for their belief in the Baha’i faith, closing down their businesses, and persuading state-backed hardliners to burn their cars, houses or writing derogatory graffiti on the walls of areas in which the Baha’is live.
Baha’i citizens have been systematically abused as a matter of state policy since the 1979 revolution in Iran. In the first decade of the Iranian authorities persecuting Baha’is, more than 200 Baha’is were killed or executed, hundreds were tortured or imprisoned, and thousands of them lost jobs, access to education, and their basic rights because of their religious belief.