Member of Iran’s Bahai Community Sentenced to 11 Years in Prison

On December 16, a Revolutionary Court in Iran sentenced Yekta Fahandezh-Saadi, a member of the Bahai community in Shiraz, capital of the southern province of Fars, to 11 years in prison. The court found Ms. Fahandezh-Saadi guilty of “colluding against the Islamic Republic” and “undermining the country’s national security.” The court also ordered her assets and belongings to be seized and turned over to the government.

Yekta’s sister, Mona Fahandezh, who currently lives in Australia, told Kayhan Life: “Agents from the Ministry of Intelligence in Shiraz have arrested Yekta four times in the past few years. She has been convicted by the Revolutionary Courts three times, and has now received an 11-year prison sentence.”

Mona Fahandezh explained: “The authorities arrested Yekta for the first time in 2010 and imprisoned her for 82 days. Yekta was arrested again in 2012 by agents of the Ministry of Intelligence and charged with ‘undermining national security.’ She spent 56 days in prison during which time she suffered psychological and emotional abuse. The judge handed her a five-year suspended sentence, but an appeals court overturned her conviction.”

“Security agents raided Yekta’s house again in March 2014 and seized her books, laptop, and personal belongings. She was held at the Intelligence Ministry’s Detention Center-100 in Shiraz for two months. In June 2016, a court convicted Yekta of ‘colluding against the Islamic Republic,’ and sentenced her to five years imprisonment.”

“While waiting to serve her sentence, Yekta was arrested and held for more than 81 days, during which time she suffered emotional and psychological abuse. An appeals court in Shiraz reduced her five-year prison sentence to two in December 2016 and gave her another three-year suspended jail sentence.”

Mona said: “After serving 74 days of her sentence at Shiraz’s Adel Abad Prison, the authorities released Yekta, pending a review of her conviction by a higher court. She was ultimately sentenced to 11 years in prison by Judge Mohammad Mojtaba Roudijani who presided over her second trial at the Branch-2 of Shiraz Revolutionary Court. The judge also ordered that all her belongings be confiscated and turned over to the government.”

“The leaders of the Islamic Republic believe that Bahais are the enemies of Islam and Muslims, which couldn’t be further from the truth. Iranian authorities began arresting and persecuting Bahais soon after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. They tried to force Bahais to convert [to Islam],” Mona noted. “To justify their persecution of Bahais, Iranian authorities have always argued that foreign powers created the religion. However, no one believes the regime’s false allegations and outrageous claims. Everyone knows that Bahais are not treasonous agents of a foreign power.”

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Mona pointed out: “The courts wrongfully convicted and imprisoned my sister. All the charges against her are trumped up. Yekta has never conspired to undermine the regime or the national security of the country. These false allegations give the authorities license to harass and persecute her. They have distorted and misrepresented her noble efforts to serve the country and help others. Yekta has never done anything to undermine the Islamic Republic system. She has never tried to convert Muslims. The judge has based his ruling on the prosecutor’s unfounded claim that she had tried to form a group.”

“My sister held classes for five or six Bahai children at her house which were educational and not religious in nature as the authorities have alleged,” Mona explained. “These are baseless accusations aimed at harassing and persecuting people of Bahai faith. It makes no sense for a person to be given an 11-year prison sentence for something she hasn’t done. In her third trial, the state argued that Yekta had ‘collaborated with a hostile power,’ which was utterly a bogus charge. They had no evidence whatsoever to support the allegations.”

Mona pointed out: “There are currently 60 Bahais who have been imprisoned by the Iranian authorities solely because of their faith. There have also been mass arrests and detentions of Bahai’s in recent months. Many of those who can post bail are rearrested and put on trial again.”

Translated from Persian by Fardine Hamidi