TEHRAN (AFP) – Iran will soon try seven members of the banned Bahai religion on charges including “espionage for Israel,” the ISNA news agency reported on Wednesday.
“The charges against seven defendants in the case of the illegal Bahai group were examined … and the case will be sent to the revolutionary court next week,” deputy Tehran prosecutor Hassan Haddad was quoted as saying.
Haddad said the charges included “espionage for Israel, insulting religious sanctities and propaganda against the Islamic republic.”
Iran and Israel are arch-enemies, and Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad has repeatedly called for the Jewish state to be wiped off the map.
In late January, judiciary spokesman Ali Reza Jamshidi said Iran had arrested six adherents of the Bahai faith on the same charges.
Earlier last month, the Fars news agency said the ex-secretary of Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi’s office was detained for links with an organisation of the Bahai faith, adding that the ex-staffer was a Bahai herself.
Haddad did not say if the seven being charged were the same as those arrested in January.
Followers of the Bahai faith, founded in Iran in 1863, are regarded as infidels and have suffered persecution both before and after the 1979 Islamic revolution.
Bahai teachings emphasise the underlying unity of major religions, with history having produced a succession of divine messengers, each of which founded a religion suitable for the times.
Bahais consider Bahaullah, born in 1817, to be the last prophet sent by God. This is in direct conflict with Islam, the religion of the vast majority of Iranians, which considers Mohammed to be the last prophet.
In late 2008, Iran reported the hanging of a Bahai man for rape and adultery.
The European Union has expressed “serious concern about the continuing systematic discrimination and harassment of the Iranian Bahais on the grounds of their religion.”