Iran says it will soon charge seven followers of the Bahá’í faith with spying for Israel, according to Iran’s ISNA news agency. Deputy Tehran prosecutor Hassan Haddad was quoted saying the seven will face a revolutionary court this week. He did not name those to be tried, but it is almost certain he was referring to seven Baha’i leaders who were arrested last spring.
Ottawa resident Naiem Tavakkoli’s father, Behrouz, is among those arrested. He called his mother in Iran as soon as news of the trial broke last week. “She’s worried. We’re all worried,” he said in an interview with Maclean’s. Behrouz has been detained in the past, but given the charges against him this time Naiem is particularly concerned. Behrouz has not been allowed to see his lawyer since his arrest, and the charges against him amount to treason. “If they take him to the court, which is mostly behind closed doors, without having access to their lawyers, and with all these accusations, you can imagine what’s going to happen,” Naiem said.
The Bahá’í faith is a monotheistic religion whose followers believe that God’s most recent messenger was Bahá’u’lláh, who lived in Persia during the 19th century before dying in exile in Palestine. The Bahá’í have suffered harsh persecution in Iran since the Islamic revolution, and especially during the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
“It’s part of the overall propaganda that the regime, and in particular Ahmadinejad, has been using to whip up hysteria, partially in advance of the elections, but partially because there is a genuine fear on the part of hard-liners that they are losing their grip on power,” said Payam Akhavan, a professor of international law at McGill University. “There’s a fear on the part of the government that there is a lot of sympathy toward the Bahá’ís among ordinary Iranians.”