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Five Baha'i followers arrested in Iran

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Five members of the outlawed Baha’i faith, which has been a target in a security crackdown sparked by post-election violence in Iran, have been arrested on unspecified charges, an Iranian newspaper said on Sunday.

“Iran’s security forces have arrested five members of the outlawed Baha’i faith in Tehran,” the pro-government Javan newspaper said, without giving a source.

It identified the fives detainees as Niki Khanjani, Ashkan Basari, Maria Jafari, Houman Sisani and Romina Zabihian.

“Some of the Baha’i leaders have escaped to Dubai and Turkey while others went to border cities to find human smugglers to get them out of Iran illegally,” Javan said.

Supporters of candidates who lost to hardline president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the presidential election last June have clashes with police in a series of protests that have plunged the Islamic republic into its most serious crisis since the 1979 revolution.

Government supporters turned out en masse on February 11 for rallies marking the 31st anniversary of the revolution. Opposition websites reported efforts by security forces to stop reformists using the occasion to stage more protests.

Seven Baha’is went on trial last month on charges of spying and collaborating with Israel. One Baha’i is among 16 being tried on connection with opposition protests that turned violent on December 27.

Exiled Baha’i leaders say hundreds of followers have been jailed and executed since 1979. The government denies it has detained or executed people for their religion.

The Baha’i faith was founded by Shi’ite Muslim clergymen in Iran in the 19th century and more than 300,000 live in the Islamic state. Iran’s Shi’ite religious establishment considers the faith a heretical offshoot of Islam.

Editing by Andrew Dobbie