CHRI – The Appeals Court in Iran’s Kurdistan Province has upheld a one-year prison sentence against Zabihollah Raoufi, who was accused of proselytizing his Baha’i faith.
He has also been condemned to a year in exile in the remote desert town of Minab, Hormozgan Province—a term he must serve after his prison sentence according to the verdict issued on July 22, 2018.
The charges against the 69-year-old shopkeeper were “propaganda against the state” and “assembly and collusion against national security by promoting Baha’ism,” a Baha’i source who asked not to be identified told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) on July 26.
Raoufi’s wife, Parvaneh Rahimi, has also been sentenced to a year in prison for the charge of “propaganda against the state” and is awaiting a decision on her appeal.
“Several people who associated with Mr. Raoufi were arrested by the Intelligence Ministry [in Sanandaj city] and when they were asked questions about him, they denied he was proselytizing and said he would only respond if he was asked about his faith,” said the source.
“But the Intelligence Ministry agents said that even giving a response is considered proselytizing and that Baha’is have been warned that they should not answer questions from non-Baha’is about their religion,” added the source.
Iran’s Constitution does not recognize the Baha’i faith as an official religion. Although Article 23 states that “no one may be molested or taken to task simply for holding a certain belief,” followers of the faith are denied many basic rights as one of the most severely persecuted religious minorities in the country.
Raoufi was previously arrested in 2009 and sentenced to six months in prison for the charge of “propaganda against the state,” a term he served in Tuyserkan, Hamadan Province.
His latest arrest was carried out by Intelligence Ministry agents in Sanandaj in May 2015. He was released on bail after a week of interrogations while being held in solitary confinement without access to legal counsel.
Raoufi’s preliminary trial took place on November 24, 2015. Five days later, his wife was arrested and sentenced to a year in prison by a preliminary court.
In May 2018, the Baha’i International Community (BIC) at the United Nations expressed alarm over a spate of arrests of Baha’is in three Iranian provinces: Khorasan Razavi, Isfahan and Alborz.
“Baha’is have been arrested since the inception of the Islamic Republic. But this new wave of arrests, that is taking place more rapidly and throughout Iran, raises concern for the BIC about their situation and the fate of all the Baha’is living in Iran,” Diane Ala’i, the non-governmental organization’s representative to the UN in Geneva, said in an interview with CHRI.