RFE/RL – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (Author)
A court in Iran has sentenced 26 followers of the Baha'i faith to prison terms ranging from two to five years, as well as other measures, on charges of "conspiracy to disrupt internal and external security" in what the religion's leaders say is another sign of the persecution they face.
According to reports received by Radio Farda, the verdict issued by the Revolutionary Court of the southern city of Shiraz is related to a series of arrests of Baha'is in Shiraz between July 2016 and December 2016.
Several unspecified problems in the case had drawn the proceedings out for six years.
Five men and six women were handed five-year prison sentences, and will also be subject to various travel restrictions once they are free.
In addition, nine women and six men received two-year prison sentences, as well as travel restrictions upon release.
The Baha'i International Community has repeatedly rejected the charges, calling them completely "baseless" and prompted solely because of their religious beliefs and activities.
Baha'is -- who number some 300,000 in Iran and have an estimated 5 million followers worldwide -- say they face systematic persecution in Iran, where their faith is not officially recognized in the constitution.
Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has on several occasions called the Baha'i faith a cult and in a religious fatwa issued in 2018 forbade contact, including business dealings, with followers of the faith.
Since the Islamic Republic of Iran was established in 1979, hundreds of Baha'is have been arrested and jailed for their beliefs. At least 200 have been executed or were arrested and never heard from again.
Thousands more have been banned from receiving higher education or had their property confiscated, while vandals often desecrate Baha'i cemeteries.
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