TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran will put on trial seven detained Baha‘i believers on Tuesday accused of spying for Tehran’s arch foe Israel and insulting sanctities, the official IRNA news agency reported.
Six of the seven Baha‘is were detained in May 2008 on security related charges, while another was arrested in March of last year. Iran had previously linked the group to Israel, saying they had received orders from Tel Aviv to undertake measures against the Islamic system.
Iran does not recognize Israel.
“The trial of the seven Baha‘is accused of spying for the Zionist regime (of Israel) and insulting sanctities will be held on Tuesday,” IRNA quoted Hassan Haddad, in charge of security affairs of Tehran’s prosecutor office, as saying.
Baha‘is regard their faith’s 19th-century founder as the latest in a line of prophets including Abraham, Moses, Buddha, Jesus and Mohammad. Iran’s Shi‘ite religious establishment considers the faith a heretical offshoot of Islam.
Haddad had previously said the seven had confessed to the formation of an illegal organisation and to having ties with Israel. The international Baha‘i community denied the charges.
The Baha‘i International Community has said they were members of a committee that tends to the needs of Baha‘is in Iran.
The Baha‘i International Community represents the faith worldwide, operating under a governing council which is based in Israel, according to its website www.bahai.org.
Baha‘is say hundreds of their followers have been jailed and executed since Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution. The government denies it has detained or executed people for their religion.
The Baha‘i faith originated in Iran 150 years ago and Baha‘is say the faith has 5 million adherents worldwide, including an estimated 300,000 or more in Iran.
Iran held this month two mass trials of detainees arrested over unrest that erupted after the country’s disputed June presidential election.